We show a recent increasing trend in Vapor Pressure Deficit (VPD) over tropical South America in dry months with values well beyond the range of trends due to natural variability of the climate system defined in both the undisturbed Preindustrial climate and the climate over 850–1850 perturbed with natural external forcing. This trend is systematic in the southeast Amazon but driven by episodic droughts (2005, 2010, 2015) in the northwest, with the highest recoded VPD since 1979 for the 2015 drought. The univariant detection analysis shows that the observed increase in VPD cannot be explained by greenhouse-gas-induced (GHG) radiative warming alone. The bivariate attribution analysis demonstrates that forcing by elevated GHG levels and biomass burning aerosols are attributed as key causes for the observed VPD increase. We further show that There is a negative trend in evaporative fraction in the southeast Amazon, where lack of atmospheric moisture, reduced precipitation together with higher incoming solar radiation (~7% decade−1 cloud-cover reduction) influences the partitioning of surface energy fluxes towards less evapotranspiration. The VPD increase combined with the decrease in evaporative fraction are the first indications of positive climate feedback mechanisms, which we show that will continue and intensify in the course of unfolding anthropogenic climate change.
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