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ITT's Place in the Cycle of Water - Water Solutions

ITT's Place in the Cycle of Water - Water Solutions


Water WorriesClimate Change and Water:The Physical Science BasisBelow are summarized some of the key findings ofthe most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climatechange (IPCC) report that have significance for theissue of water supply.PrecipitationPrecipitation is the general term for rainfall, snowfalland other forms of frozen or liquid water falling fromclouds. As climate changes, several direct influencesalter precipitation amount, intensity, frequency andtype:• Warming accelerates land surface drying, andboosts the potential incidence and severity ofdroughts.• The water-holding capacity of the atmosphereincreases with rises in temperature. At the sametime, a consequence of warming is increasedevaporation. Because precipitation comes mainlyfrom weather systems that feed on the watervapor stored in the atmosphere, these trends havegenerally increased precipitation intensity and therisk of heavy rain.• The warmer climate, therefore, increases risks ofboth drought — where it is not raining — andfloods — where it is — but at different times and/or places. For example, in the summer of 2002,Europe experienced widespread floods; that wasfollowed a year later by heat waves and drought.ITT’s Place In The Cycle of Water: Everything But The Pipes

Water WorriesObservations of long-term trends from 1900 to 2005show that changes are occurring in the amount,intensity, frequency and type of precipitation:• It has become significantly wetter in eastern Northand South America, northern Europe, and northernand central Asia.• It is drier in southern Africa, the Mediterranean,and southern Asia.• More precipitation now falls as rain rather thansnow in northern regions. (Reduced snow cover isa key issue for water supply in the western U.S.)• Widespread increases in heavy precipitation eventshave been observed, even in places where totalamounts have decreased.Overall trends in precipitation are indicated by thePalmer Drought Severity Index, which measures thecumulative deficit (relative to local mean conditions)in surface land moisture — see Figure prev. page.With regard to the deficit in moisture that hasoccurred since the 1980s, the IPCC noted that ”evenas the potential for heavier precipitation results fromincreased water vapor amounts, the duration andfrequency of events may be curtailed, as it takes longerto recharge the atmosphere with water vapor [italicsadded].”DroughtFor the reasons outlined above, the extent of regionsaffected by droughts has increased, given thatprecipitation over land has marginally decreased whileevaporation has increased due to warmer conditions.(In simple terms, drought is an imbalance betweenprecipitation and evaporation.)* A Global Dataset of Palmer Drought Severity Index for 1870-2002: Relationship with Soil Moisture and Effects of SurfaceWarming, Aiguo Dai et al., Journal of Hydrometeorology, December 200457

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