Dominance of climate warming effects on recent drying trends over wet monsoon regions
Abstract. Understanding changes in background dryness over land is key information for adapting to climate change because of its critical socioeconomic consequences. However, causes of continental dryness changes remain uncertain because various climate parameters control dryness. Here, we verify dominant climate variables determining dryness trends over continental eastern Asia, which is characterized by diverse hydroclimate regimes ranging from arid to humid, by quantifying the relative effects of changes in precipitation, solar radiation, wind speed, surface air temperature, and relative humidity on trends in the aridity index based on observed data from 189 weather stations for the period of 1961–2010. Before the early 1980s (1961–1983), change in precipitation is a primary condition for determining aridity trends. In the later period (1984–2010), the dominant climate parameter for aridity trends varies according to the hydroclimate regime. Drying trends in arid regions are mostly explained by reduced precipitation. In contrast, the increase in potential evapotranspiration due to increased atmospheric water-holding capacity, a secondary impact of warming, works to increase aridity over the humid monsoon region despite an enhanced water supply and relatively less warming. Our results show significant drying effects of warming over the humid monsoon region in recent decades; this also supports the drying trends over warm and water-sufficient regions in future climate.