Figuring out the water cycle… still

There are a few different levels of understanding about the water cycle. There are the diagrams hung in elementary schools, showing water evaporating up from the ocean into clouds, then falling back down to the ground. A step beyond, there’s a general understanding that takes into account evaporation from trees, wind patterns and the like.

Then, there are the highly technical approaches that look at a wild array of minutia and contingencies: nighttime sap flow, isoprene emissions, ice-nucleating particles released from decaying leaves, even the phases of the moon.

And yet, even with all of these details researched and logged and plugged into different models and algorithms, it’s hard to trust a given morning’s forecast. Cloud behavior and rainfall still remains a mystery – let alone how they will react with climate change.

Taking progress on this matter into his own hands, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) Associate Douglas Sheil has recently published a paper that seeks to show why such mysteries still exist and point out areas where research is needed in order to solve them. In simple, readable language, he summarizes the most prevalent water cycle theories and hypothesizes the enormous change that could happen, should we finally agree upon one that works – perhaps even his own. Read the full story on Forests News.