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El Nino-La Nina cycle and recent trends in continental evaporation
Miralles, D.G.; van den Berg, M.J.; Gash, J.H.; Parinussa, R.M.; de Jeu, R.A.M.; Beck, H.E.; Holmes, T.R.H.; Jimenez, C.; Verhoest, N.E.C.; Dorigo, W.A.; Teuling, A.J.; Dolman, A.J. (2014). El Nino-La Nina cycle and recent trends in continental evaporation. Nat. Clim. Chang. 4(2): 122-126.
In: Nature Climate Change. Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 1758-678X, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Miralles, D.G.
  • van den Berg, M.J.
  • Gash, J.H.
  • Parinussa, R.M.
  • de Jeu, R.A.M.
  • Beck, H.E.
  • Holmes, T.R.H.
  • Jimenez, C.
  • Verhoest, N.E.C.
  • Dorigo, W.A.
  • Teuling, A.J.
  • Dolman, A.J.

    The hydrological cycle is expected to intensify in response to global warming(1-3). Yet, little unequivocal evidence of such an acceleration has been found on a global scale(4-6). This holds in particular for terrestrial evaporation, the crucial return flow of water from land to atmosphere(7). Here we use satellite observations to reveal that continental evaporation has increased in northern latitudes, at rates consistent with expectations derived from temperature trends. However, at the global scale, the dynamics of the El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) have dominated the multi-decadal variability. During El Nino, limitations in terrestrial moisture supply result in vegetation water stress and reduced evaporation in eastern and central Australia, southern Africa and eastern South America. The opposite situation occurs during La Nina. Our results suggest that recent multi-year declines in global average continental evaporation(8,9) reflect transitions to El Nino conditions, and are not the consequence of a persistent reorganization of the terrestrial water cycle. Future changes in continental evaporation will be determined by the response of ENSO to changes in global radiative forcing, which still remains highly uncertain(10,11).

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