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Moisture and heat fluctuations from the land surface to the atmosphere form a critical nexus between surface hydrology and atmospheric processes, especially those relevant to rainfall. While current theory has suggested that soil moisture has had a positive impact on precipitation, there have been very few large-scale observations of this. A team of researchers from Columbia Engineering, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, and Rutgers University has now demonstrated that evaporation from the land surface is able to modify summertime rainfall east of the Mississippi and in the monsoonal region in the southern U.S. and Mexico. One of their main findings is that evaporation from the land is, however, only able to modify the frequency of summertime rainfall, not its quantity.
* Observed warming over several decades has been linked to changes in the large-scale hydrological cycle.
* Climate model simulations for the 21st century are consistent in projecting precipitation increases in high latitudes (very likely) and parts of the tropics, and decreases in some subtropical and lower mid-latitude regions (likely).
* By the middle of the 21st century, annual average river runoff and water availability are projected to increase as a result of climate change at high latitudes and in some wet tropical areas, and decrease over some dry regions at mid-latitudes and in the dry tropics.
* Increased precipitation intensity and variability are projected to increase the risks of flooding and drought in many areas.
* Water supplies stored in glaciers and snow cover are projected to decline in the course of the century.
* Higher water temperatures and changes in extremes, including floods and droughts, are projected to affect water quality and exacerbate many forms of water pollution.
* Globally, the negative impacts of future climate change on freshwater systems are expected to outweigh the benefits (high confidence).
* Changes in water quantity and quality due to climate change are expected to affect food availability, stability, access and utilisation.