Changing Water Cycle

Programme overview

Changes in the hydrological cycle as a consequence of climate and land use drivers are expected to play a central role in governing a vast range of environmental impacts. At the same time, predictions of water-related variables show very high uncertainty; for example, as shown in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change fourth assessment report (IPCC AR4).

The Changing Water Cycle programme has developed an integrated, quantitative understanding of the changes taking place in the global water cycle, involving all components of the earth system, improving predictions for the next few decades of regional precipitation, evapotranspiration, soil moisture, hydrological storage and fluxes.

Background & objectives

Changes in the hydrological cycle as a consequence of climate and land use drivers are expected to play a central role in governing a vast range of environmental impacts. At the same time, predictions of water-related variables show very high uncertainty: for example, as shown in the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change fourth assessment report (IPCC AR4).

The Changing Water Cycle programme has developed an integrated, quantitative understanding of the changes taking place in the global water cycle, involving all components of the earth system, improving predictions for the next few decades of regional precipitation, evapotranspiration, soil moisture, hydrological storage and fluxes.

The programme worked to understand how local to regional scale hydrological and biogeochemical processes are responding and will respond to changing climate and land use, together with their consequent impacts on the sustainable use of soil and water and investigate the consequences of the changing water cycle for water-related natural hazards, including floods and droughts, improving prediction and mitigation of these hazards.

This programme aimed to address the urgent needs to understand the changes taking place now; predict changes that will take place over the next few decades; and, through the Living With Environmental Change programme (LWEC), by working with partners to build resilience, mitigate problems, and develop adaptive solutions. It had global dimensions and dimensions that focus specifically on the UK/European region and certain overseas regions.

Aims and objectives

The programme fostered interdisciplinary research that linked applied water resources issues seamlessly to fundamental climate system science. The high-level science goals were:

  1. To develop an integrated, quantitative understanding of the changes taking place in the global water cycle, involving all components of the earth system - the atmosphere, ocean, land surface and geosphere, cryosphere and biosphere.
  2. To improve predictions for the next few decades of regional precipitation, evapotranspiration, soil moisture, hydrological storage and fluxes, focusing on the requirement to quantify and narrow the uncertainty in predictions.
  3. To understand how local to regional scale hydrological and biogeochemical processes are responding and will respond to changing climate and land use, together with their consequent impacts on the sustainable use of soil and water.
  4. To understand the consequences of the changing water cycle for water-related natural hazards, including floods and droughts, and to improve prediction and mitigation of these hazards.

The Changing Water Cycle programme directly related to delivery of the NERC strategy (2007 - 2012) - Next Generation Science for Planet Earth (in particular climate system, sustainable use of natural resources and natural hazards science themes) and the UK government's strategic goals at the time with respect to the adaptation to, and mitigation of, climate change.

Resources

The following documents and links are related to or give more information about this programme.

Changing Water Cycle brochure (PDF, 7.4MB)

Implementation plan (PDF, 170KB)

Science plan (PDF, 585KB)

Water related research landscape in India - external link
This report, undertaken by ValueNotes on behalf of Research Councils UK, presents an overview of the funding structures and emerging themes, strengths and weaknesses in water research in India.