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Climate Change Altering Earth's Water Cycle June 1, 2012
Water Cycle Graphics
Two graphic interpretations of Earth's Water Cycle.
The distribution of salt in the world’s oceans has changed over the past 50 years in a trend researchers say is a clear fingerprint of climate change’s influence on the global water cycle.

Writing in the journal Science, American and Australian scientists say they have found that the water cycle, which transports water from the oceans into the air, then down to the ground and ocean again in rainfall and runoff strengthened by 4 percent during the latter half of the 20th century.

“These changes suggest that arid regions have become drier while high rainfall regions have become wetter in response to observed global warming,” said Paul Durack of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

He and his colleagues believe a predicted 3 degrees Celsius rise in global temperatures by the end of this century could cause an estimated 24 percent acceleration of the water cycle.

Durack warns that major changes to the global water cycle, and the resulting redistribution of rainfall, “will affect food availability, stability, access and utilization.”

Graphics: NOAA