For years, researchers have predicted that Earth’s arid regions will increase as the planet warms, but new research from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) has not confirmed this information.

Previously, climate models analyzed the atmosphere, but current climate models take into account vegetation behavior and land hydrology.

For example, when plants absorb CO2, they lose water. If there is more of it in the air, plants can release less water and become more efficient. More CO2 also results in more fertilizer for the plants, which helps them grow and reduces water stress.

As the climate warms, there is a discrepancy between the behavior of the atmosphere and the earth’s surface.

Alexis Berg, McCall Lab Researcher and first author of the article

To explain this discrepancy, the study authors developed a new drylands metric based on the properties of the earth’s surface: it took into account biological responses to higher levels of CO2. They then compared forecasts of planetary warming with forecasts derived exclusively from atmospheric metrics.

As a result, it turned out that dry areas would not increase dramatically in area.

However, the authors acknowledge that existing models may not fully accurately reflect future changes, so work continues to improve the design.