The water cycle is the worldwide phenomenon of rainwater falling to the surface, evaporating back into the air and falling again as rain.
The wetter parts of the world are getting wetter and the drier parts drier. The researchers know this because the saltier parts of the ocean are getting saltier and the fresher parts, fresher.
Records showed that the saltier parts of the ocean increased salinity — or their salt content — by 4 percent in the 50 years between 1950 and 2000. If the climate warms by an additional 2 or 3 degrees, the researchers project that the water cycle will turn over more quickly, intensifying by almost 25 percent.
Reporting in Science magazine, the researchers said the results of the change in climate would affect agriculture and the ability of drier areas to capture and use fresh water from rain, creating serious problems, including droughts and floods. But they had to look offshore to find their data.
“The oceans are really where the action is happening,” said Paul Durack, the lead author.
The study uses 50 years of data — from 1950-2000 — gathered by instruments, some adrift on the ocean currents, some tethered in place. Some of the instruments are tiers of bottles that open at various depths as they are lowered into the sea, and they take measurements as far down as 9,000 feet. Continue reading Sea water getting saltier