Causes of increasing aridification of the Mediterranean region in response to rising greenhouse gases

Seager, Richard; Liu, Haibo; Henderson, Naomi L.; Simpson, Isla R.; Kelley, Colin Patrick; Shaw, Tiffany Ann; Kushnir, Yochanan; Ting, Mingfang

The hydrological cycle in the Mediterranean region, as well as its change over the coming decades, is investigated using the Interim European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) and phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) historical simulations and projections of the coming decades. The Mediterranean land regions have positive precipitation minus evaporation, P-E, in winter and negative P-E in summer. According to ERA-Interim, positive P-E over land in winter is sustained by transient eddy moisture convergence and opposed by mean flow moisture divergence. Dry mean flow advection is important for opposing the transient eddy moisture flux convergence in the winter half year and the mass divergent mean flow is a prime cause of negative P-E in the summer half year. These features are well reproduced in the CMIP5 ensemble. The models predict reduced P-E over the Mediterranean region in the future year-round. For both land and sea, a common cause of drying is increased mean flow moisture divergence. Changes in transient eddy moisture fluxes largely act diffusively and cause drying over the sea and moistening over many land areas to the north in winter and drying over western land areas and moistening over the eastern sea in summer. Increased mean flow moisture divergence is caused by both the increase in atmospheric humidity in a region of mean flow divergence and strengthening of the mass divergence. Increased mass divergence is related to increased high pressure over the central Mediterranean in winter and over the Atlantic and northern Europe in summer, which favors subsidence and low-level divergence over the Mediterranean region.

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Also Published In

Journal of Climate

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Ocean and Climate Physics
Published Here
July 16, 2021