The warming climate significantly modifies the global water cycle. Global evapotranspiration has increased over the past decades, yet climate models agree on the drying trend of land surface. In this study, we conducted an intercomparison analysis of the surface energy partitioning across Coupled Model Intercomparison Phase 5 (CMIP5) simulations and evaluated its behaviour with surface temperature and soil moisture anomalies, against the theoretically derived thermodynamic formula. Different responses over land and sea surfaces to elevated greenhouse gas emissions were found. Under the Representative Concentration Pathway of +8.5 W m−2
(RCP8.5) warming scenario, the multi-model mean relative efficiency anomaly from CMIP5 simulations is 3.83 and −0.12 over global sea and land, respectively. The significant anomaly over sea was captured by the thermodynamic solution based on the principle of maximum entropy production, with a mean relative error of 14.6%. The declining trend over land was also reproduced, but an accurate prediction of its small anomaly will require the inclusions of complex physical processes in future work. Despite increased potential evapotranspiration under rising temperatures, both CMIP5 simulations and thermodynamic principles suggest that the soil moisture-temperature feedback cannot support long-term enhanced evapotranspiration at the global scale. The dissipation of radiative forcing eventually shifts towards sensible heat flux and accelerates the warming over land, especially over South America and Europe.
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