9.6 Restoring the natural water cycle over arable land

Land degradation is almost always initiated by unsustainable land use, e.g., overgrazing or overexploitation of groundwater resources. Unsustainable land use affects directly the local water cycle leading to less rain, and consequently land erosion and desertification are a result of these processes in dry climates. In a world, with an alarming water scarcity problem, it will be crucial to restart the water cycle in these regions again. In this project we will focus on coastal areas around the Mediterranean Sea. The idea is to explore with atmospheric and climate models if regreening of arable land will positively impact the regional hydrological cycle. If successful, this may bring prosperity to the poorest regions, enhance water safety, sequester greenhouse gases, reduce weather extremes, and increase sustainable food production.

Research challenge
The starting idea is based on the finding that many arid areas were much wetter and greener in a not so distant past. Somewhere in time, these areas shifted from wet and green to arid conditions. The challenge of this project is to explore under which atmospheric and environmental conditions, and on which horizontal scales we can restore the hydrological cycle. Inspired by observations, we aim to do atmospheric and climate model studies in which the relevant variables are varied and of which the sensitivities are explored. By doing so, we want to 1) identify areas that are critically dependent on land evaporation to trigger precipitation, 2) explore how extensively these areas should be modified to increase precipitation, and 3) see if there are non-local effects of greening (e.g., modification of weather systems that counteract or strengthen precipitation).

We are looking for a candidate with an MSc degree in the field of Meteorology, Hydrology, or an equivalent Earth Sciences degree with a quantitative background. The candidate must have an affinity with atmospheric and climate modelling, large computer programs, and the analysis of big data sets. We are looking for a candidate, who:

· is interested in doing scientific research;
· can effectively communicate her/his results in writing, presentations and discussions;
· has a strong interest in all aspects of the hydrological cycle and its relation to vegetation;
· is inventive in figuring out new ways to study and model the regional hydrological cycle;
· likes to write and outreach.

The research project is part of the Wetsus research theme “Natural Water Production”.
This research is done in cooperation with “The Weather makers”.

Promotor: Prof.dr Bert Holtslag (Wageningen University, Meteorology and Air Quality, see
Wetsus supervisor: Dr. Bert Hamelers (ad interim).

For more information contact .

Please do NOT send your CV directly to this email address. Only complete applications sent via the website will be evaluated (How to Apply).

Wetsus, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands


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