Mediterranean water cycle changes: Transition to drier 21st century conditions in observations and CMIP3 simulations

Annarita Mariotti*, Ning Zeng, Jin Ho Yoon, Vincenzo Artale, Antonio Navarra, Pinhas Alpert, Laurent Z.X. Li

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We use CMIP3 multi-model simulations to show how individual hydroclimatic changes will concur to determine even greater alterations of 21st century Mediterranean water cycle characteristics, with contrasting behavior over land and sea. By 2070-2099, the average of the models predicts a 20% decrease in land surface water availability and a 24% increase in the loss of fresh water over the Mediterranean Sea due to precipitation reduction and warming-enhanced evaporation, with a remarkably high consensus among analyzed models. The projected decrease in river runoff from the surrounding land will further exacerbate the increase in Mediterranean Sea fresh water deficit. 20th century simulations indicate that the 'transition' toward drier conditions has already started to occur and has accelerated around the turn of the century towards the larger rates projected for the 21st century. These tendencies are supported by observational evidence of century-long negative trends in regionally averaged precipitation, PDSI and discharge from numerous rivers; and are consistent with reported increases in Mediterranean sea water salinity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number044001
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2008


  • Mediterranean water cycle
  • climate change
  • drought
  • salinity


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