But how is this limited natural resource evolving over time?
Ibarra, who is currently a visiting assistant professor at IBES, uses present and past data to better understand how water availability might change in a warming world.
"Unlike predictions of future temperature, predictions of changes in the water cycle—like precipitation and river runoff—are quite uncertain," he says. "My work uses past changes in the water cycle to ask: how much wetter or drier was a region under warmer or colder conditions? How sensitive is a region's water balance to temperature changes? What is the role of vegetation and changes in water delivery on terrestrial water availability?"
Finding answers to these complex questions requires Ibarra to make use of both modern datasets and ancient, paleoclimate records, often with the help of LiDAR and other remote sensing tools.
Ibarra's research has already revealed how dramatically water resources have changed globally over the past thousands to millions of years. His fieldwork has brought him to such disparate places as Asia, the Philippines, and North America.
He is looking forward to bringing his work to IBES and cultivating new relationships with fellow experts in biogeochemistry, climate science, and land use change.
"Being a part of IBES will give me the collaborations and resources to pursue these projects at a much larger scale," he says.
Ibarra will join the Institute in 2021 as a rostered fellow.