Global water cycle shifts substantially beyond stable pre-industrial conditions

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. This is version 1 of this Preprint.


Download Preprint


Miina Porkka , Vili Virkki, Lan Wang-Erlandsson, Dieter Gerten, Tom Gleeson, Chinchu Mohan, Ingo Fetzer, Fernando Jaramillo, Arie Staal, Sofie te Wierik, Arne Tobian, Ruud van der Ent, Petra Döll, Martina Flörke, Simon Gosling, Naota Hanasaki, Yusuke Satoh, Hannes Müller Schmied, Niko Wanders , Johan Rockstrom, Matti Kummu


Human actions compromise the many life-supporting functions of the global freshwater cycle. Yet, an encompassing analysis of humanity’s aggregate impact on the freshwater cycle is still missing. We compare the current state of the freshwater cycle against a stable reference state by estimating the global area experiencing streamflow and soil moisture deviations beyond pre-industrial variability range. We propose replacing the current freshwater use planetary boundary (PB) with our thus-defined freshwater change PB. Our analysis indicates unprecedented change: locally, the impacts of e.g. climate change, land use, and dams, are clearly visible. Globally, we find 70% and 44% increases in areas experiencing streamflow and soil moisture deviations. This suggests a transgression of the PB, calling for urgent actions to reduce human disturbance of the freshwater cycle.






Published: 2022-07-07 14:07

Last Updated: 2022-07-07 21:07


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

Additional Metadata

Data Availability (Reason not available):
All data used in this study are gathered from openly available sources, which are appropriately cited in Materials and Methods. The code used in producing the results shown in this study will be deposited in a public database and released upon publication.

Add a Comment

You must log in to post a comment.


There are no comments or no comments have been made public for this article.