Hydrological cycle changes under global warming and their effects on multiscale climate variability

Jian Ma, Lei Zhou, Gregory R. Foltz, Xia Qu, Jun Ying, Hiroki Tokinaga, Carlos R. Mechoso, Jinbao Li, Xingyu Gu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Despite a globally uniform increase in the concentrations of emitted greenhouse gases, radiatively forced surface warming can have significant spatial variations. These define warming patterns that depend on preexisting climate states and through atmospheric and oceanic dynamics can drive changes of the hydrological cycle with global-scale feedbacks. Our study reviews research progress on the hydrological cycle changes and their effects on multiscale climate variability. Overall, interannual variability is expected to become stronger in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and weaker in the Atlantic. Global monsoon rainfall is projected to increase and the wet season to lengthen despite a slowdown of atmospheric circulation. Strong variations among monsoon regions are likely to emerge, depending on surface conditions such as orography and land–sea contrast. Interdecadal climate variability is expected to modulate the globally averaged surface temperature change with pronounced anomalies in the polar and equatorial regions, leading to prolonged periods of enhanced or reduced warming. It is emphasized that advanced global observations, regional simulations, and process-level investigations are essential for improvements in understanding, predicting, and projecting the modes of climate variability, monsoon sensitivity, and energetic fluctuations in a warming climate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-48
Number of pages28
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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