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

Aug 24, 2019
New Approach for Studying How Microbes Influence Their Environment
A diverse group of scientists suggests a common framework and targeting of known microbial processes [more...]

Aug 08, 2019
Nutrient-Hungry Peatland Microbes Reduce Carbon Loss Under Warmer Conditions
Enzyme production in peatlands reduces carbon lost to respiration under future high temperatures. [more...]

Aug 05, 2019
Amazon Forest Response to CO2 Fertilization Dependent on Plant Phosphorus Acquisition
AmazonFACE Model Intercomparison. The Science Plant growth is dependent on the availabi [more...]

Jul 29, 2019
A Slippery Slope: Soil Carbon Destabilization
Carbon gain or loss depends on the balance between competing biological, chemical, and physical reac [more...]

Jul 15, 2019
Field Evaluation of Gas Analyzers for Measuring Ecosystem Fluxes
How gas analyzer type and correction method impact measured fluxes. The Science A side- [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)