Projections of the effect of climate change on future water availability are examined by reviewing the formulations used to calculate moisture transport between the ground and the atmosphere. General circulation models and climate change impact models have substantially different formulations for evapotranspiration, so their projections of future water availability often disagree, even though they use the same temperature and precipitation forecasts. General circulation models forecast little change in tropical and subtropical water availability, while impact models show severe water and agricultural shortages. A comparison of observations and modeling techniques shows that the parameterizations in general circulation models likely lead to an underestimate of the impacts of global warming on soil moisture and vegetation. Such errors would crucially affect the temperature and precipitation forecasts used in impact models. Some impact model evaporation formulations are probably more appropriate than those in general circulation models, but important questions remain. More observations are needed, especially in the vicinity of forests, to determine appropriate parameterizations.
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