Century-scale change in water availability: CO2-quadrupling experiment

S. Manabe, R. T. Wetherald, P. C.D. Milly, T. L. Delworth, R. J. Stouffer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


It has been suggested that, unless a major effort is made, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide may rise above four times the pre-industrial level in a few centuries. Here we use a coupled atmosphere-ocean-land model to explore the response of the global water cycle to such a large increase in carbon dioxide, focusing on river discharge and soil moisture. Our results suggest that water is going to be more plentiful in those regions of the world that are already 'water-rich'. However, water stresses will increase significantly in regions and seasons that are already relatively dry. This could pose a veiy challenging problem for water-resource management around the world. For soil moisture, our results indicate reductions during much of the year in many semi-arid regions of the world, such as the southwestern region of North America, the northeastern region of China, the Mediterranean coast of Europe, and the grasslands of Australia and Africa. In some of these regions, soil moisture values are reduced by almost a factor of two during the dry season. The drying in semi-arid regions is likely to induce the outward expansion of deserts to the surrounding regions. Over extensive regions of both the Eurasian and North American continents in high and middle latitudes, soil moisture decreases in summer but increases in winter, in contrast to the situation in semi-arid regions. For river discharge, our results indicate an average increase of ∼15% during the next few centuries. The discharges from Arctic rivers such as the Mackenzie and Ob' increase by much larger fractions. In the tropics, the discharges from the Amazonas and Ganga-Brahmaputra also increase considerably. However, the percentage changes in runoff from other tropical and many mid-latitude rivers are smaller.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-76
Number of pages18
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - May 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Atmospheric Science


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