The origin and fate of atmospheric moisture over continents
There has been a long debate on the extent to which precipitation relies on terrestrial evaporation (moisture recycling). In the past, most research focused on moisture recycling within a certain region only. This study makes use of new definitions of moisture recycling to study the complete process of continental moisture feedback. Global maps are presented identifying regions that rely heavily on recycled moisture as well as those that are supplying the moisture. An accounting procedure based on ERA‐Interim reanalysis data is used to calculate moisture recycling ratios. It is computed that, on average, 40% of the terrestrial precipitation originates from land evaporation and that 57% of all terrestrial evaporation returns as precipitation over land. Moisture evaporating from the Eurasian continent is responsible for 80% of China’s water resources. In South America, the Río de la Plata basin depends on evaporation from the Amazon forest for 70% of its water resources. The main source of rainfall in the Congo basin is moisture evaporated over East Africa, particularly the Great Lakes region. The Congo basin in its turn is a major source of moisture for rainfall in the Sahel. Furthermore, it is demonstrated that due to the local orography, local moisture recycling is a key process near the Andes and the Tibetan Plateau. Overall, this paper demonstrates the important role of global wind patterns, topography and land cover in continental moisture recycling patterns and the distribution of global water resources.