Reduced Land Surface Water Evaporation Contradicts Beliefs – Researchers “Very Surprised” By Latest Findings

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So much for settled science! With every new climate study, the science just gets more and more unsettled.

Germany’s Max Planck Institute’s latest press release is about a new paper titled:

Tracking the Evapotranspiration Cycle
Reduced evaporation from the earth’s surface despite warming of the atmosphere

to appear in Nature Journal, click here, and is titled in English: Recent decline in the global land evapotranspiration trend due to limited moisture supply
Nature, 10. October 2010; doi:10.1038/nature09396

The Max Planck Institute press release starts as follows:

The earth’s climate system is complex and is not fully understood. Up to now scientists believed that global warming would speed up evaporation and the evapotranspiration cycle. But now scientists of the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemisty in Jena, Germany have run into a huge surprise: using 250 measuring stations distributed over the earth’s surface and satellite data, scientists have determined that the worldwide trend of increased evaporation of the earth’s land surface has weakened immensely, or has even reversed between 1998 and 2008. And this despite that the earth’s atmosphere having warmed up during this time period. One possible explanation is that the scientists found that the ground, especially in southern Africa, Australia and South America, dried up increasingly, and so less moisture could evaporate. Why the land’s surface in the southern hemisphere became drier and whether this trend will continue is still unclear (Online-Version Nature, 10. October 2010).

The scientists of the Fluxnet Initiative have estimated how much moisture rises into the atmosphere. Between 1982 and 2008, 65,000 cubic kilometers of water evaporated globally each year, That’s a water amount equal to the Caspian Sea, the world’s largest lake. According to Markus Reichstein, research group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemisty in Jena and coordinator of the study:

For the first time our data shows how evaporation has changed during this time period.

First the amount of water evaporating from the global land area rose steadily by 120 cubic kilometers until 1997. But then the trend weakened significantly thereafter. According to Martin Jung, who evaluated the data at Max Planck Institute in Jena:

That the temperature increased slightly while the rate of increased evaporation weakened was very surprising. After all, warmer air is known to have the capability to absorb more moisture.

Climate scientists thought up to now that a warmer earth would evaporate more water. However, this appears to be limited regionally. Especially in Australia, East Africa and South America the exact opposite occurred between 1998 and 2008. There, much less water evaporated. This decrease was not able to offset the increase occurring in China and India.

The scientists believe that ground in the southern continents has become more dried out, and thus does not evaporate as much water. Jung warns explicitly against concluding that this is a clear sign of climate change: most probably it has to do with a natural fluctuation that cannot yet be explained.

Dr Reichstein says that the trend must be observed for a longer period and that ENSO cycles may play a role.

According to Nature Journal:

Whether the changing behaviour of evapotranspiration is representative of natural climate variability or reflects a more permanent reorganization of the land water cycle is a key question for earth system science.

The scientists are concerned that drier land in the southern hemisphere could lead to reduced photosynthesis, and thus more CO2 in the atmosphere, and thus more warming. But there is still a lot of scientific that needs to be done to understand what is going on.

Future measuremnts will tell us more, says Reichstein.

Conclusion: Obviously the models used up to now for predicting future climate have had no semblance to what is actually going on out in the field. They’re not even close. The scientists of the prestigious Max Planck Institute are very surprised by the findings. So much is still unknown about how the climate works.

Note: I didn’t translate the entire MPI press release, just the major parts of it. Here’s a post I wrote in July about the same topic:

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11 responses to “Reduced Land Surface Water Evaporation Contradicts Beliefs – Researchers “Very Surprised” By Latest Findings”

  1. R. de Haan
  2. Gerhard Straten

    Perhaps someone should tell them that the atmosphere didn’t warm up between 1998 and 2008 and that we have no idea of the real surface temperatures of the earths landmass

  3. Charles Higley

    “And this despite that the earth’s atmosphere having warmed up during this time period.”

    Of course, if you innocently or ignorantly use the temperature data supplied by the major record keepers (NCDC, GISS, NOAA, & CRU), you have global warming – it’s value-added processed to give you the warming they want.

    If you are a scientist who is interested in the veracity of your work, you get your own data and look at it raw. In which case, they would find that rural sites have largely not been warming and the world has been cooling since 2002 and more rapidly since 2006. So, lowered evapotransporation with cooling, no problem, it makes total sense.

    Now what? Rediscover the wheel?

    “The scientists are concerned that drier land in the southern hemisphere could lead to reduced photosynthesis, and thus more CO2 in the atmosphere, and thus more warming.”

    CO2 does not, cannot, and will not drive the planet. It is only in the limited confines of a greenhouse and using the altered thermodynamics of the IPCC that CO2 has any significant effect. Water vapor is >95% of the heat-trapping gases and, rather than being a positive forcing factor, a la the IPCC biased approach, it is part of a global heat engine which serves as a powerful negative forcing factor.

    Miskolczi and Zagoni have recently and quite elegantly shown that CO2 and absolute water vapor interact such that absolute water vapor decreases with increasing CO2, such that the two exert a constant effect. Such a water vapor decrease has been observed in the upper troposphere. So, there’s really no problem. There might, in fact, be a slight cooling effect here as water vapor is a stronger heat-trapping gas and it is decreasing.

    Only the rarified and limited scientific world of the IPCC has CO2 increases as having anything beyond a slight, probably undetectable effect on our climate. Since man is only responsible for <5% of the CO2 each year, we are talking about temperature changes in 1000ths of a degC. This is meaningless.

    Worry all they want about CO2, but when ALL of the science is included and the unilateral, unfounded changes of the science by the IPCC are fixed, CO2 IS JUST PLANT FOOD!

    It should also be mentioned that the computer models have been found to be lacking another major factor. It is estimated that the Earth's internal georeactor passes heat to the planet surface at rates 75–100% of the solar input. Without this being included, the models are once again meaningless and have to fail. This is just another item for the long list of factors not in the models.

    The heat flux from the planet does begin to explain the heat fluctuations which appear to drive the ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) whose frequency of cold and hot cycles appears to drive a good deal of our climate cycles.

    We still have loads to learn about our planets and the solar system, by we can also read thermometers without the intervention of pseudoscientists who alter the data to fit their opinions and political agendas. Leave them out and you find that there has been no warming in the last 120 years that is out of the ordinary and nothing that reflects and human influences. Sea level, glaciers, polar ice, polar bears – all fine. CO2 cannot acidify the complex buffer we call sea water, and the much touted species extinctions are all only predictions from a misused computer simulation; nothing happening in the real world but misinformation by loud-mouthed alarmists.

    Recently, a "scientist" wrote that mankind has been altering the climate for the last 10,000 years. It can be said with fair confidence that this is totally opinion with no factual backing of any kind.
    Reply- agreed! PG

  4. John Marshall

    Reduced evaporation with rising atmospheric temperature? Were these scientists led to thinking that the atmosphere is warming despite proof that the temperature record has been tampered with to show a warming trend? ( Both Australia and New Zealand have admitted to reducing [adjusted] historic temperature data to show a warming, NASA and HadCRUt have done the same.)

  5. dave

    Maybe they are proving that the earth isn’t warming.

    1. Gator

      Hey Dave! What they are proving is that they do not know what they are talking about and that their models reflect this ignorance. Garbage in, garbage out.

  6. R. de Haan

    Read the amazing peer reviewed Scafetti Paper that tells us the real drivers of our climate, see WUWT.
    The IPCC climate models are wrong and our SUV’s are no weather machines.

    I have never accepted the AGW doctrine and now we have the paper to shut them up for good.

    The remaining 35% undeclared warming comes from the Urban Heat Island effect that influences night temperatures and the location of the Surface Stations.

    We’re fine now the planet is saved.

  7. Richard Petschauer

    Nearly all of the evaporation (that causes rainfall) originates from the oceans. The land only recycles a fraction of rainfall that it receives that does not run off or penetrates the deeper soil. In the oceans evaporation certainly follows the law of the differences of partial pressures of the sea surface and the boundary air which increaes about 6.3 % / per C for constant RH – about double that in the erronoeous IPCC models. This evaporation cooling that moves latent heat from the surface to the clouds that in turn radiate heat to outer space. This is a major negative feedback factor that all models, even the simple ones, now ignore.

  8. AztecBill

    This kicks the legs from under the feedback assumptions AGW uses. Most of the warming they predict is from feedbacks, not directly from CO2. One of the major feedbacks they use to assume this, is increased water vapor in the atmosphere due to increased evaporation from increased temperatures.

    This is a major blow to AGW.

    The other major blow is a direct coorelation of escaped radiation from the Earth as measured from space, to global temperatures. If increased CO2 increases temperatures then temperatures must increase faster than escaped radiation into space.

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