U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Ocean Salinities Reveal Intensification of the Water Cycle
Published: April 27, 2012
Posted: August 21, 2012

New estimates of ocean surface salinity change over the past 50 years mark a clear symptom of climate change. Salinity measurements are valuable because they respond to changes in the water cycle (as manifest through precipitation and surface evaporation) over the poorly sampled global oceans that cover 71 percent of the Earth's surface. These and other observations were compared with results from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP3; climate model output from simulations of past, present, and future climate), and the relationship between salinity changes and global water cycle changes was examined. The observationally based estimate of water cycle intensification (4 percent intensification from 1950 to 2000) is twice that predicted by most CMIP3 models, although the responses of individual models varied. Changes in the pattern of surface salinity provide independent evidence that wet regions are becoming wetter and dry regions drier, an expected result for a warming Earth. The CMIP3 projections of future climate change suggest that this pattern of change will intensify.

Reference: Durack, P. J., S. E. Wijffels, and R. J. Matear. 2012. "Ocean Salinities Reveal Strong Global Water Cycle Intensification during 1950-2000," Science 336(6080), 455-58. DOI: 10.1126/science.1212222. (Reference link)

Selected media interest includes:

Contact: Renu Joseph, SC-23.1, (301) 903-9237, Dorothy Koch, SC-23.1, (301) 903-0105
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER


BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

May 10, 2019
Quantifying Decision Uncertainty in Water Management via a Coupled Agent-Based Model
Considering risk perception can improve the representation of human decision-making processes in age [more...]

May 09, 2019
Projecting Global Urban Area Growth Through 2100 Based on Historical Time Series Data and Future Scenarios
Study provides country-specific urban area growth models and the first dataset on country-level urba [more...]

May 05, 2019
Calibrating Building Energy Demand Models to Refine Long-Term Energy Planning
A new, flexible calibration approach improved model accuracy in capturing year-to-year changes in bu [more...]

May 03, 2019
Calibration and Uncertainty Analysis of Demeter for Better Downscaling of Global Land Use and Land Cover Projections
Researchers improved the Demeter model’s performance by calibrating key parameters and establi [more...]

Apr 22, 2019
Representation of U.S. Warm Temperature Extremes in Global Climate Model Ensembles
Representation of warm temperature events varies considerably among global climate models, which has [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)