Warming Climate Has Caused Water Cycle to Intensify, Study Says

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A new study published in the journal Science suggests that the cycle of evaporation and rainfall over the world’s oceans has accelerated 4 percent in the last half-century as a result of global warming, a development that could portend more extreme weather in the decades to come.

In an analysis of salinity in oceans from 1950 to 2000, scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California found that the salty areas of the ocean have gotten saltier and fresher areas have gotten fresher, a phenomenon they attribute to stronger patterns of evaporation and precipitation over the ocean.

The researchers suggest a 1-degree F increase in global temperatures during that period was enough to trigger the 4 percent intensification of the water cycle.

If that trend continues, they say, projected increases in temperatures by 2100 could cause the water cycle to intensify by as much as 20 percent, which means regions already receiving a lot of rainfall will receive even more and areas prone to drought will be even drier.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.

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