The atmosphere now has a water-deficit: more evaporation and less water available to plants
Dry air inhibits greening of the earth; the world is getting browner - climate change short science news

A period in which the earth became increasingly green seems to have come to an end. The cause is the dry air, says an international research team led by Chinese scientists.

In the 1980s, satellite images showed that the earth became greener - more plants, more trees. The greening was related to the increased CO2 emissions, which stimulate the growth of plants. Climate skeptics often use it as an argument to put the adverse effects of this greenhouse gas in perspective.

A trend break occurred at the end of the 1990s, the new study reports. Satellite measurements show that since then large parts of the world have slowed down the growth of plants, that more trees are dying than before and that the canopy has become thinner. The world is getting browner, and this is caused by the increasing difference between the actual amount of water vapor in the atmosphere and the amount of water vapor that the atmosphere can contain. This increased "atmospheric drought" makes more water evaporating from the soil, leaving less water for plants to grow.

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Scientific publication: Science Advances