Rainfall and overland flow are fundamental processes for Earth's ecosystems but can also be land disturbing forces, particularly when triggered by extreme hydro-meteorological events. Examples of these extremes are rainstorms and related phenomena due to rainfall aggressiveness. They produce high-impact land processes such as soil erosion and nutrient losses. Economic and social consequences of these processes can be quite severe. However, hydrological extremes and their environmental implications are still poorly understood, particularly if analyzed in the context of climate change. Here, we analyze a 300 year long times series of historical rainfall patterns across the Mediterranean in the last three centuries and we investigate changes in the erosive forcing as related to climate changes. Our results show that the erosive forcing increased towards the end of the Little Ice Age (similar to 1850) over western and central Mediterranean and that has been increasing in the recent warming period at low Mediterranean latitudes, due to a higher frequency of intensive storms. Such increased concentrated precipitation may lead to an intensification of land degradation processes triggered by soil erosion and transport across a range of scales from hillslopes to small catchments.
[Romano, Nunzio; Chirico, Giovanni Battista] Univ Naples Federico 2, Dept Agr Engn, I-80055 Naples, Italy; [Diodato, Nazzareno; Bellocchi, Gianni] CEOP GEWEX Network World Climate Res Programme, Met European Res Observ, I-82100 Benevento, Italy; [Bellocchi, Gianni] French Natl Inst Agr Res, Grassland Ecosyst Res Unit, F-63000 Clermont Ferrand, France
Chirico, GB (reprint author), Univ Naples Federico 2, Dept Agr Engn, Via Univ 100, I-80055 Naples, Italy.