Articles | Volume 11, issue 18
Research article
27 Sep 2011
Research article |  | 27 Sep 2011

Global precipitation response to changing forcings since 1870

A. Bichet, M. Wild, D. Folini, and C. Schär

Abstract. Predicting and adapting to changes in the hydrological cycle is one of the major challenges for the 21st century. To better estimate how it will respond to future changes in climate forcings, it is crucial to understand how the hydrological cycle has evolved in the past and why. In our study, we use an atmospheric global climate model with prescribed sea surface temperatures (SSTs) to investigate how, in the period 1870–2005, changing climate forcings have affected the global land temperature and precipitation. We show that between 1870 and 2005, prescribed SSTs (encapsulating other forcings and internal variability) determine the decadal and interannual variabilities of the global land temperature and precipitation, mostly via their influence in the tropics (25° S–25° N). In addition, using simulations with prescribed SSTs and considering the atmospheric response alone, we find that between 1930 and 2005 increasing aerosol emissions have reduced the global land temperature and precipitation by up to 0.4 °C and 30 mm yr−1, respectively, and that between about 1950 and 2005 increasing greenhouse gas concentrations have increased them by up to 0.25 °C and 10 mm yr−1, respectively. Finally, we suggest that between about 1950 and 1970, increasing aerosol emissions had a larger impact on the hydrological cycle than increasing greenhouse gas concentrations.

Final-revised paper