Do Heat Waves have an Impact on Terrestrial Water Storage?
Abstract:Recent works have investigated the impact of heat waves on the surface energy and carbon balance. However, less attention has been given to the impacts on terrestrial hydrology. During the summer of 2010, the occurrence of an exceptional heat wave affected severely the Northern Hemisphere. The extension (more than 2 million km2) and severity of this extreme event caused substantial ecosystem damage (more than 1 million ha of forest fires), economic and human losses (~500 billion USD and more than 17 million of indirect deaths, respectively).
This work investigates for the first time the impacts of the 2010 summer heat wave on terrestrial water storage. Our study area comprises three different regions where air temperature records were established or almost established during the summer: Western Russia, the Middle East and Eastern Sahel. Anomalies of terrestrial water storage derived from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) were used to infer water storage deficits during the 2003-2013 period. Our analysis shows that Russia experienced the most severe water storage decline, followed by the Middle East, whereas Eastern Sahel was not significantly affected. The impact of the heat wave was spatially uniform in Russia but highly variable in the Middle East, with the Northern part substantially more affected than the Southern region. Lag times between maxima air temperatures and lower water storage deficits for Russia and the Middle East were approximately two and seven months, respectively.
The results suggest that the response of terrestrial water storage to heat waves is stronger in energy-limited environments than in water-limited regions. Such differences in the magnitude and timing between meteorological and hydrological extremes can be explained by the propagation time between atmospheric water demand and natural or anthropogenic sources of water storage.