A clear change in salinity has been detected in the world’s oceans, signalling shifts and an acceleration in the global rainfall and evaporation cycle. In a paper published in the journal Science, scientists reported changing patterns of salinity in the global ocean during the past 50 years, marking a clear fingerprint of climate change.
Lead author, Dr Paul Durack, said that by looking at observed ocean salinity changes and the relationship between salinity, rainfall and evaporation in climate models, they determined the water cycle has strengthened by four per cent from 1950-2000. This is twice the response projected by current generation global climate models.
"Salinity shifts in the ocean confirm climate and the global water cycle have changed. These changes suggest that arid regions have become drier and high rainfall regions have become wetter in response to observed global warming," said Dr Durack. With a projected temperature rise of 3ºC by the end of the century, the researchers estimate a 24 per cent acceleration of the water cycle is possible.
Scientists have struggled to determine coherent estimates of water cycle changes from land-based data because surface observations of rainfall and evaporation are sparse. However, according to the team, global oceans provide a much clearer picture.