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Quantification of human contribution to soil moisture-based terrestrial aridity

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Journal Name
Nature Communications
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Current knowledge of the spatiotemporal patterns of changes in soil moisture-based terrestrial aridity has considerable uncertainty. Using Standardized Soil Moisture Index (SSI) calculated from multi-source merged data sets, we find widespread drying in the global midlatitudes, and wetting in the northern subtropics and in spring between 45°N–65°N, during 1971–2016. Formal detection and attribution analysis shows that human forcings, especially greenhouse gases, contribute significantly to the changes in 0–10 cm SSI during August–November, and 0–100 cm during September–April. We further develop and apply an emergent constraint method on the future SSI’s signal-to-noise (S/N) ratios and trends under the Shared Socioeconomic Pathway 5-8.5. The results show continued significant presence of human forcings and more rapid drying in 0–10 cm than 0–100 cm. Our findings highlight the predominant human contributions to spatiotemporally heterogenous terrestrial aridification, providing a basis for drought and flood risk management.