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Mid-Holocene drylands: A multi-model analysis using Paleoclimate Modelling Intercomparison Project Phase III (PMIP3) simulations

Liu, Shanshan, Jiang, Dabang, Lang, Xianmei
TheHolocene 2019 v.29 no.9 pp. 1425-1438
Holocene epoch, arid lands, dry environmental conditions, evapotranspiration, models, paleoclimatology, relative humidity, subhumid zones, uncertainty, Australia, Northern Africa, South Asia, Southern Africa
This study examines changes in aridity levels during the mid-Holocene (approximately 6000 cal. yr ago) using multi-model simulations from the Paleoclimate Modelling Intercomparison Project Phase III. Overall, there is little difference in the total area of drylands from the preindustrial period; global drylands are 8% wetter than during the preindustrial period as measured by an aridity index; and 16% of preindustrial drylands convert to a wetter climate subtype, double the sum of zones that are replaced by a drier category. Considerable variations are present among regions with major contractions of each dryland subtype from northern Africa to South Asia and the main expansions of arid, semiarid, and dry subhumid climates in southern hemisphere continents. The difference in precipitation is the leading factor of the aforementioned changes. The second factor is the altered potential evapotranspiration as mainly induced by relative humidity, which contributes to additional aridity changes in a same direction as precipitation does. The collective effects of precipitation and relative humidity account for more than 80% of the dryland variations. In comparison, the simulated aridity change is in reasonable agreement with reconstructions, while there are model–data discrepancies for Australia and uncertainties across proxies for southern Africa.