Auburn University assistant professor Shufen “Susan” Pan has conducted research on global climate change that suggests there may be water scarcity in more than half of the world’s land area by the end of the 21st century.
Pan is one of the researchers for Auburn’s International Center for Climate and Global Change research, which has been recognized by the White House for its contributions to the U.S. National Climate Assessment, according to Auburn University Center for Climate and Global Change director Hanqin Tian.
Pan said her research shows the ratio of evaporation to precipitation in 60 percent of the world’s land area.
According to Pan, the ratio of evapotranspiration to precipitation is defined as a measure of how much water will return to Earth after going through the water cycle.
With climate change increasing, less water is making its way back to Earth.
Pan said Africa and other similar areas would be hardest hit by the by the effects of evapotranspiration.
“The people in these areas already lack access to clean and reliable water,” Pan said. “In areas like the U.S., we don’t think about whether we will have enough water to last us day to day, but there, for example, the women have to go collect water in jugs. The effects of evapotranspiration would worsen the existing problem.”
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According to Pan, her research on water scarcity is part of a study that links water, food and energy in a changing climate.
“We need a systems approach to deal with such a complex issue. We need to better educate the public so that we can influence policy makers.” Pan said. “We need to better educate the public so that we can influence policy makers.”
Pan said she understands climate change is a controversial issue many people are undereducated about it.
“I use my scientific data to provide factual information that links climate change to food and water security so that we can better communicate to people the importance of the issues,” Pan said.
Pan conducted her research with a team of professors and graduate students by using the Dynamic Land Ecosystem Model, a model developed by the International Center for Climate and Global Change Research.
According to Pan, the model uses terabytes of data to predict future ecosystem interactions.
The information is then validated by comparing the model to observed data.
Graduate research assistant Shree Sharma Dangal worked on Pan’s team, validating the input data of the Dynamic Land Ecosystem Model.
Dangal said the research used field data and satellite data to form that helped lead the team to coming to their conclusion on water scarcity possibly affecting have the Earth’s land area.
“It’s important to understand the relation between the computer model data and the field data to show to validate our findings to the public so they will be better informed,” Dangal said.
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