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Friday, April 27, 2012

Ocean Salinities Reveal Strong Global Water Cycle Intensification During 1950 to 2000, by Paul J. Durack, Susan E. Wijffels & Richard J. Matear, Science 336(6080) (April 27, 2012); doi: 10.1126/science.1212222

Scienceol. 336, No. 6080, pp. 455-458; doi: 10.1126/science.1212222                         

Ocean Salinities Reveal Strong Global Water Cycle Intensification During 1950 to 2000

Paul J. Durack1,2,3,4,*Susan E. Wijffels1,3, and Richard J. Matear1,3


Fundamental thermodynamics and climate models suggest that dry regions will become drier and wet regions will become wetter in response to warming. Efforts to detect this long-term response in sparse surface observations of rainfall and evaporation remain ambiguous. We show that ocean salinity patterns express an identifiable fingerprint of an intensifying water cycle. Our 50-year observed global surface salinity changes, combined with changes from global climate models, present robust evidence of an intensified global water cycle at a rate of 8 ± 5% per degree of surface warming. This rate is double the response projected by current-generation climate models and suggests that a substantial (16-24%) intensification of the global water cycle will occur in a future 2-3 °C warmer world.

1Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Marine and Atmospheric Research, General Post Office (GPO) Box 1538, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia
2Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 129, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia
3Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship, CSIRO, GPO Box 1538, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia
4Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Mail Code L-103, 7000 East Avenue, Livermore, CA 94550, U.S.A.
*Correspondence e-mail:


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