Climatic Change

, Volume 120, Issue 1–2, pp 375–387 | Cite as

Temporal and spatial variability of the global water balance

  • Gregory J. McCabeEmail author
  • David M. Wolock


An analysis of simulated global water-balance components (precipitation [P], actual evapotranspiration [AET], runoff [R], and potential evapotranspiration [PET]) for the past century indicates that P has been the primary driver of variability in R. Additionally, since about 2000, there have been increases in P, AET, R, and PET for most of the globe. The increases in R during 2000 through 2009 have occurred despite unprecedented increases in PET. The increases in R are the result of substantial increases in P during the cool Northern Hemisphere months (i.e. October through March) when PET increases were relatively small; the largest PET increases occurred during the warm Northern Hemisphere months (April through September). Additionally, for the 2000 through 2009 period, the latitudinal distribution of P departures appears to co-vary with the mean P departures from 16 climate model projections of the latitudinal response of P to warming, except in the high latitudes. Finally, changes in water-balance variables appear large from the perspective of departures from the long-term means. However, when put into the context of the magnitudes of the raw water balance variable values, there appears to have been little change in any of the water-balance variables over the past century on a global or hemispheric scale.


Streamflow Annual Streamflow Monthly Runoff Latitudinal Band Global Water Balance 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© U.S. Government 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.U.S. Geological Survey, Denver Federal Center, MS 412DenverUSA
  2. 2.U.S. Geological SurveyLawrenceUSA

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