Investigating soil moisture–climate interactions in a changing climate: A review
Soil moisture is a key variable of the climate system. It constrains plant transpiration and photosynthesis in several regions of the world, with consequent impacts on the water, energy and biogeochemical cycles. Moreover it is a storage component for precipitation and radiation anomalies, inducing persistence in the climate system. Finally, it is involved in a number of feedbacks at the local, regional and global scales, and plays a major role in climate-change projections. In this review, we provide a synthesis of past research on the role of soil moisture for the climate system, based both on modelling and observational studies. We focus on soil moisture–temperature and soil moisture–precipitation feedbacks, and their possible modifications with climate change. We also highlight further impacts of soil moisture on climate, and the state of research regarding the validation of the relevant processes. There are promises for major advances in this research field in coming years thanks to the development of new validation datasets and multi-model initiatives. However, the availability of ground observations continues to be critical in limiting progress and should therefore strongly be fostered at the international level. Exchanges across disciplines will also be essential for bridging current knowledge gaps in this field. This is of key importance given the manifold impacts of soil moisture on climate, and their relevance for climate-change projections. A better understanding and quantification of the relevant processes would significantly help to reduce uncertainties in future-climate scenarios, in particular with regard to changes in climate variability and extreme events, as well as ecosystem and agricultural impacts.