Precipitation Recycling in the Amazon Basin: The Role of Moisture Transport and Surface Evapotranspiration

Abstract The objective of this study is to evaluate the distribution of water budget components and precipitation recycling in the Amazon basin addressing the physical mechanisms involved in the recycling process. In general, the Amazon basin acts as a sink for atmospheric moisture, receiving water vapor transported from the ocean and from precipitation recycled from evapotranspiration by the forest. At the regional scale, the Amazon basin is an important source of water vapor, contributing to precipitation in other remote locations of South America. Here we show, on average, 20% of precipitation in the Amazon basin is recycled, varying between 15% in the northern portion and 40% in the southern portion. Thus, approximately 20% of the total rainfall in the basin is derived from local evapotranspiration processes indicating that the local contribution to the total precipitation represents a significant contribution to the regional water budget and plays an important role in the Amazon hydrological cycle. However, the variability and changes in the climate system due to both natural and anthropogenic forcings (such as the increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and changes in land use and land cover – deforestation) can affect the precipitation recycling and regional hydrologic cycle.