Globally Increasing Atmospheric Aridity Over the 21st Century
Abdulhakim M. Abdi
Summary, in English
Vapor pressure deficit (VPD) is of great importance to control the land-atmosphere exchange of water and CO2. Here we use in situ observations to assess the performance of monthly VPD calculated from state-of-the-art data sets including CRU, ERA5, and Modern-Era Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications, Version 2 (MERRA2). We investigate trends in VPD at global scale and for different climatic zones for 1981–2020 and future trends (2021–2100) from Coupled Model Inter-comparison Project phase 6 (CMIP6) outputs. The results show that monthly VPD estimated from CRU, ERA5, and MERRA2 correlated well against in situ estimates from 15,531 World Meteorological Organization stations, with R2 ranging between 0.92 and 0.96. Moreover, robust correlations were also found across in situ stations and when analyzing different months separately. During 1981–2020, VPD increased in all climatic zones, with the strongest increase in the arid zone, followed by tropical, temperate, cold and polar zones. CMIP6 simulations show a continuously increasing trend in VPD (0.028 hPa year−1), with the largest increase in the arid zone (0.063 hPa year−1). The magnitudes of trends are found to increase following the magnitude of CO2 increases in the future emission scenarios. We highlight that atmospheric aridification will continue under global warming, which may pose an increasing threat to terrestrial ecosystems and particularly dryland agricultural systems.