The response of the global water cycle to changes in global surface temperature remains an outstanding question in future climate projections and in past climate reconstructions. The stable hydrogen and oxygen isotope compositions of precipitation (δprecip), meteoric water (δMW) and seawater (δSW) integrate processes from microphysical to global scales and thus are uniquely positioned to track global hydroclimate variations. Here we evaluate global hydroclimate during the past 2,000 years using a globally distributed compilation of proxies for δprecip, δMW and δSW. We show that global mean surface temperature exerted a coherent influence on global δprecip and δMW throughout the past two millennia, driven by global ocean evaporation and condensation processes, with lower values during the Little Ice Age (1450–1850) and higher values after the onset of anthropogenic warming (~1850). The Pacific Walker Circulation is a predominant source of regional variability, particularly since 1850. Our results demonstrate rapid adjustments in global precipitation and atmospheric circulation patterns—within decades—as the planet warms and cools.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)