E.2 Atmosphere: Water Cycle (future change)

Changes in the global water cycle in response to the warming over the 21st century will not be uniform. The contrast in precipitation between wet and dry regions and between wet and dry seasons will increase, although there may be regional exceptions (see Figure SPM.8). {12.4, 14.3}


  • Projected changes in the water cycle over the next few decades show similar large-scale patterns to those towards the end of the century, but with smaller magnitude. Changes in the near-term, and at the regional scale will be strongly influenced by natural internal variability and may be affected by anthropogenic aerosol emissions. {11.3}


  • The high latitudes and the equatorial Pacific Ocean are likely to experience an increase in annual mean precipitation by the end of this century under the RCP8.5 scenario. In many mid- latitude and subtropical dry regions, mean precipitation will likely decrease, while in many mid- latitude wet regions, mean precipitation will likely increase by the end of this century under the RCP8.5 scenario (see Figure SPM.8). {7.6, 12.4, 14.3}


  • Extreme precipitation events over most of the mid-latitude land masses and over wet tropical regions will very likely become more intense and more frequent by the end of this century, as global mean surface temperature increases (see Table SPM.1). {7.6, 12.4}


  • Globally, it is likely that the area encompassed by monsoon systems will increase over the 21st century. While monsoon winds are likely to weaken, monsoon precipitation is likely to intensify due to the increase in atmospheric moisture. Monsoon onset dates are likely to become earlier or not to change much. Monsoon retreat dates will likely be delayed, resulting in lengthening of the monsoon season in many regions. {14.2}


  • There  is  high  confidence  that  the  El  Niño-Southern Oscillation  (ENSO)  will  remain  the dominant mode of interannual variability in the tropical Pacific, with global effects in the 21st century. Due to the increase in moisture availability, ENSO-related precipitation variability on regional scales will likely intensify. Natural variations of the amplitude and spatial pattern of ENSO are large and thus confidence in any specific projected change in ENSO and related regional phenomena for the 21st century remains low. {5.4, 14.4}
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