American Scientist: "The Water Cycle on Overdrive"
Dr. Adam M. Milewski
Water Resources & Remote Sensing Lab (WRRS), Department of Geology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 20602, USA)
The movement of Earth’s water through atmosphere, surface, and underground is accelerating as the climate changes.
Drought, the melting of glaciers, and extreme precipitation events are just some of the headlines dominating the news as the world deals with a new hydrologic normal. Worldwide impacts on weather events, agriculture, and freshwater resources are already taking place, and will grow more intense in the future at the climate changes. Even the increasing rotational speed of Earth itself, shortening our 24-hour day, may be attributable to the intensification of the water cycle. Determining how bad these impacts will be and how they will play out depends on difficult calculations of water circulation in a warming world.
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The intensification of the water cycle, brought on by an increase in precipitation across the United States, can have counterintuitive local effects, including drought. Water cycle intensity, the sum of precipitation and actual evapotranspiration averaged over a time period of interest, is related to groundwater recharge. An increase in precipitation will in turn increase water cycle intensity and groundwater recharge, as is the case along the Pacific Northwest coast. In areas with higher evapotranspiration and lower precipitation, such as the Southwest, water sustainability issues are critical.