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Ground water and climate change

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Abstract

As the world's largest distributed store of fresh water, ground water plays a central part in sustaining ecosystems and enabling human adaptation to climate variability and change. The strategic importance of ground water for global water and food security will probably intensify under climate change as more frequent and intense climate extremes (droughts and floods) increase variability in precipitation, soil moisture and surface water. Here we critically review recent research assessing the impacts of climate on ground water through natural and human-induced processes as well as through groundwater-driven feedbacks on the climate system. Furthermore, we examine the possible opportunities and challenges of using and sustaining groundwater resources in climate adaptation strategies, and highlight the lack of groundwater observations, which, at present, limits our understanding of the dynamic relationship between ground water and climate.

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Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3: Global map of anthropogenic groundwater recharge rates in areas with substantial irrigation by surface water.

Change history

  • 03 December 2012

    In the version of this Review Article originally published online, in Table 1, 'Flux-based method' and 'Volume-based method' should have cited refs 91 and 92, respectively. This error has now been corrected in all versions of the Review Article.

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Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge support provided by the International Association of Hydrogeologists' Commission on Groundwater & Climate Change and the UNESCO IHP GRAPHIC Programme (http://www.gwclim.org) in coordinating this Review.

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Correspondence to Richard G. Taylor.

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Taylor, R., Scanlon, B., Döll, P. et al. Ground water and climate change. Nature Clim Change 3, 322–329 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1744

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