Water Cycle Research

How will the hydrologic cycle change as the climate warms?

Estimated global water cycle. Water storage is given by the non-italic numbers in cubic km, while fluxes of water are given in thousands of cubic km/hr by the italic numbers (From Trenberth et al. 2006) Water is essential to life on Earth, plays a key role in the development and functioning of society, and is a high priority resource for sustainable development. Yet, many aspects of the Earth’s water cycle, are not well understood or simulated by climate models. One focus of NCAR's water system research is to reduce this uncertainty through improved understanding and parameterization of the water cycle in climate models. A second component of the effort is to examine the impact of climate change with regard to its effects on changing water systems, and to determine potential effects on water management policy in order to assist decision-makers.

A complete understanding of the water system requires an approach that extends beyond the atmosphere to include ground and surface water and the management of changing water resources. It is a highly collaborative research activity at NCAR, involving many disciplines.