Summer soil drying exacerbated by earlier spring greening of northern vegetation

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Science Advances  03 Jan 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 1, eaax0255
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax0255


Earlier vegetation greening under climate change raises evapotranspiration and thus lowers spring soil moisture, yet the extent and magnitude of this water deficit persistence into the following summer remain elusive. We provide observational evidence that increased foliage cover over the Northern Hemisphere, during 1982–2011, triggers an additional soil moisture deficit that is further carried over into summer. Climate model simulations independently support this and attribute the driving process to be larger increases in evapotranspiration than in precipitation. This extra soil drying is projected to amplify the frequency and intensity of summer heatwaves. Most feedbacks operate locally, except for a notable teleconnection where extra moisture transpired over Europe is transported to central Siberia. Model results illustrate that this teleconnection offsets Siberian soil moisture losses from local spring greening. Our results highlight that climate change adaptation planning must account for the extra summer water and heatwave stress inherited from warming-induced earlier greening.

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