"This is the first time we've been able to map evaporation in a consistent way, using concrete measurements that are available around the world," says Pierre Gentine, assistant professor of earth and environmental engineering at Columbia. "This is a big step forward in our understanding of how the water cycle impacts life on Earth."
The Earth's surface hydrologic cycle comprises precipitation, runoff, and evaporation fluctuations. Scientists can measure precipitation across the globe using rain gauges or microwave remote sensing devices. In places where streamflow measurements are available, they can also measure the runoff. But measuring evaporation has always been difficult.
"Global measurements of evaporation have been a longstanding and frustrating challenge for the hydrologic community," says Gentine. "And now, for the first time, we show that simple weather station measurements of air temperature and humidity can be used across the globe to obtain the daily evaporation."
Evaporation is a key component of the hydrological cycle: it tells us how much water leaves the soil and therefore how much should be left there for a broad range of applications such as agriculture, water resource management, and weather forecasting.
Gentine, who studies the relationship between hydrology and atmospheric science and its impact on climate change, collaborated on this research with Guido D. Salvucci, professor and chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Boston University and the paper's lead author. Using data from weather stations, widely available across the globe, they focused on evaporation and discovered an emergent relationship between evaporation and relative humidity that gave them the evaporation rates.
Gentine and Salvucci plan to provide daily maps of evaporation around the world that will enable scientists to evaluate changes in water table, calculate water requirements for agriculture, and measure more accurate evaporation fluctuations into the atmosphere.
"Sharing our data with researchers around the world will help us learn more about the Earth's hydrologic cycle and assess recent trends such as whether it is accelerating," adds Gentine. "Acceleration could greatly impact our climate, locally, nationally, and globally."
The research has been funded by the National Science Foundation.
Columbia University's Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, founded in 1864, offers programs in nine departments to both undergraduate and graduate students. With facilities specifically designed and equipped to meet the laboratory and research needs of faculty and students, Columbia Engineering is home to NSF-NIH funded centers in genomic science, molecular nanostructures, materials science, and energy, as well as one of the world's leading programs in financial engineering. These interdisciplinary centers are leading the way in their respective fields while individual groups of engineers and scientists collaborate to solve some of modern society's more difficult challenges.
In times of climate change: What a lake’s colour can tell about its condition
21.09.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
Did marine sponges trigger the ‘Cambrian explosion’ through ‘ecosystem engineering’?
21.09.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam - Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZ
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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