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May 13, 2024

Prof. Patrick Keys envisions sci-fi worlds involving changes to atmospheric water cycle

Human activity is changing the way water flows between the Earth and atmosphere in complex ways and with likely long-lasting consequences that are hard to picture. Land use change is altering where clouds form and how precipitation is distributed. Meanwhile, weather modification activities like cloud seeding are shifting how nations plan for water use in the face of climate change. These and other changes to the planet’s atmospheric water cycle were once hard to imagine but are increasingly part of modern water management on the planet.

Colorado State University Assistant Professor Patrick Keys is an expert in climate and societal change. He has been studying these types of issues for years and realized there was a potential gap when it came to understanding – not only in the public but among the water research community – the lasting implications of these changes.

To better grasp how those kinds of activities could shape the world, he enlisted water scientists from around the globe to write story-based scenarios about the possible futures humanity is facing but perhaps can’t quite comprehend yet. The results were recently published in Global Sustainability as part of a creative pathway to understand atmospheric water research with an eye towards the potential economic and policy issues that may be just beyond the horizon.The work features striking artist-made images that pair with traditional science fiction narratives as well as alternative story forms like first-person journal entries. Keys said the package offers a wide path – grounded in science – to build a shared understanding of future water management activities and problems.

More information can be found in this article by Josh Rhoten.

Photo caption: An artist generated image illustrating possible futures in policy and research due to human modifications of the atmospheric water cycle. Credit: Fabio Comin.