Changing Seasonal Rainfall Distribution With Climate Directs Contrasting Impacts at Evapotranspiration and Water Yield in the Western Mediterranean Region
©2018. The Authors. Over the past century, climate change has been reflected in altered precipitation regimes worldwide. Because evapotranspiration is sensitive to both water availability and atmospheric demand for water vapor, it is essential to assess the likely consequences of future changes of these climate variables to evapotranspiration and, thus, runoff. We propose a simplified approach for annual evapotranspiration predictions, based on seasonal evapotranspiration estimates, accounting for the strong seasonality of meteorological conditions typical of Mediterranean climate, still holding the steady state assumption of basin water balance at mean annual scale. Sardinian runoff decreased over the 1975–2010 period by more than 40% compared to the preceding 1922–1974 period. Most of annual runoff in Sardinian basins is produced by winter precipitation, a wet season with relatively high evaporation rates. We derived linear seasonal evapotranspiration responses to seasonal precipitation, and, in turn, a relationship between the parameters of the linear functions and the seasonal vapor pressure deficit (D), accounting for residuals with basin properties. We then used these relationships to predict evapotranspiration and runoff using future Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change climate scenarios, considering changing precipitation and D seasonality. We show that evapotranspiration is insensitive to D scenario changes. Although both evapotranspiration and runoff are sensitive to precipitation seasonality, future changes in runoff are related only to changes of winter precipitation, while evapotranspiration changes are related to those of spring and summer precipitation. Future scenario predicting further runoff decline is particularly alarming for the Sardinian water resources system, requiring new strategies and designs in water resources planning and management.
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