• climate change;
  • enhanced greenhouse effect;
  • hydrological cycle;
  • pan evaporation;
  • potential evaporation;
  • water cycle


Contrary to expectations, measurements of pan evaporation show decreases in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere over the last 50 years. When combined with rainfall measurements, these data show that much of the Northern Hemisphere's terrestrial surface has become less arid over the last 50 years. However, whether the decrease in pan evaporation is a phenomenon limited to the Northern Hemisphere has until now been unknown because there have been no reports from the Southern Hemisphere. Here, we report a decrease in pan evaporation rate over the last 30 years across Australia of the same magnitude as the Northern Hemisphere trends (approximately −4 mm a−2). The results show that the terrestrial surface in Australia has, on average, become less arid over the recent past, just like much of the Northern Hemisphere. Copyright © 2004 Royal Meteorological Society.