Direct human influence of irrigation on atmospheric water vapour and climate
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- Boucher, O., Myhre, G. & Myhre, A. Climate Dynamics (2004) 22: 597. doi:10.1007/s00382-004-0402-4
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Human activity increases the atmospheric water vapour content in an indirect way through climate feedbacks. We conclude here that human activity also has a direct influence on the water vapour concentration through irrigation. In idealised simulations we estimate a global mean radiative forcing in the range of 0.03 to +0.1 Wm–2 due to the increase in water vapour from irrigation. However, because the water cycle is embodied in the climate system, irrigation has a more complex influence on climate. We also simulate a change in the temperature vertical profile and a large surface cooling of up to 0.8 K over irrigated land areas. This is of opposite sign than expected from the radiative forcing alone, and this questions the applicability of the radiative forcing concept for such a climatic perturbation. Further, this study shows stronger links than previously recognised between climate change and freshwater scarcity which are environmental issues of paramount importance for the twenty first century.