Despite More Intense Rain, Blue Water Decline from Warmer Soil’s Reduced Runoff

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 13 December 2018


Blue Water Decline from Warmer Soil’s Reduced Runoff

The long dry: why the world's water supply is shrinking,
University of New South Wales, December 13, 2018.


More Rain = Less Water
“...our water supplies are shrinking at the same time as climate change is generating more intense rain.”

“...the most exhaustive global analysis of rainfall and rivers...”

No Models
“...relied on actual data from 43,000 rainfall stations and 5,300 river monitoring sites in 160 countries, instead of basing its findings on model simulations of a future climate, which can be uncertain and at times questionable.”

"We expected rainfall to increase, since warmer air stores more moisture - and that is what climate models predicted too. What we did not expect is that, despite all the extra rain everywhere in the world, is that the large rivers are drying out.“

Green Water-Blue Water Ratio Changing
“For every 100 raindrops that fall on land, only 36 drops are 'blue water' - the rainfall that enters lakes, rivers and aquifers - and therefore, all the water extracted for human needs. The remaining two thirds of rainfall is mostly retained as soil moisture - known as 'green water' - and used by the landscape and the ecosystem.”

Warmer-Drier Land Absorbing Rising Rains
“As warming temperatures cause more water to evaporate from soils, those dry soils are absorbing more of the rainfall when it does occur - leaving less 'blue water' for human use.”

How Nature says, “FU”
"It's a double whammy," said Sharma. "Less water is ending up where we can store it for later use. At the same time, more rain is overwhelming drainage infrastructure in towns and cities, leading to more urban flooding."

"Climate change keeps delivering us unpleasant surprises.”

Unexpected Less Flooding with More Rain
“...despite widespread global evidence of rising precipitation extremes, there's no evidence of an increase in flooding, with evidence pointing more towards decreased flood peaks for the moderate flood events that form the key refill events in water supply reservoirs.”

Smaller Storms-Drier Soils
“They suggest that large declines in the amount of moisture in the soil, coupled with the contraction in the geographical spread of each storm event, are the major reasons why increases in extreme rainfall are not resulting in corresponding increases in flooding.”

Losing What We Need
"Small floods are very important for water supply, because they refill dams and form the basis of our water supply."

Screwed Either Way
"But they're happening less often, because the soils are sucking up the extra rain. Even when a major storm dumps a lot of rain, the soils are so dry they absorb more water than before, and less reaches the rivers and reservoirs."

Looking for Wrong Effect
"Everybody has been obsessed by the flood side of the equation but have ignored the more critical component, which is the embattled water supply that comes from reduced flows into our reservoirs."


Related Research

RADICAL SEASONAL CHANGE HAPPENED: The "New Normal" Warmer, Drier, & Wetter High Sierra


Water & Weather: Radically Changing Seasons, The New Normal, "Snow Droughts" During "Wet" Years


Warm Soil, Heatwaves & Microbes: Two Pieces of Climate Change-Soil Disaster Research

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