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Global Warming Causes Shift in Water Cycle

According to the results of a recent investigation, it would appear that storms and other weather phenomena associated with global warming are prompting an yearly increase in the amount of water that flows into the Earth's oceans.


One of the main reasons why these increases occurs is because storms take place with greater strength and also more frequently than ever before. This intensification in their activity patterns has been linked to global warming and climate change.

The investigators who conducted the new investigation say that rise amounts to about 1.4 percent per year, which is incredibly large.

Studies have revealed that the largest amounts of freshwater that eventually find their way into the oceans are produced by glaciers, ice sheets and rivers.

Between 1994 and 2006, melting ices have produced an 18 percent increase in the amount of freshwater making its way into the saltwater of the seas.

“That might not sound like much – 1.5 percent a year – but after a few decades, it’s huge,” explains research Jay Famiglietti. He says that rain is more and more beginning to fall in all the wrong places.

The scientist is a Earth system science professor at the University of California in Irvine (UCI). He is also the principal investigator of the new study, which is published in this week's issue of the esteemed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

“In general, more water is good. But here’s the problem: Not everybody is getting more rainfall, and those who are may not need it,” the team leader adds.

“What we’re seeing is exactly what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted – that precipitation is increasing in the tropics and the Arctic Circle with heavier, more punishing storms,” he goes on to say.

“Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of people live in semiarid regions, and those are drying up,” Famiglietti adds.

The idea that this will happen has been put forth years ago by experts, but various interests have made research into it nearly impossible. The new study is one of the first to take a closer look at the situation.
“Many scientists and models have suggested that if the water cycle is intensifying because of climate change, then we should be seeing increasing river flow,” say Famiglietti and lead author Tajdarul Syed of the Indian School of Mines.

“Unfortunately, there is no global discharge measurement network, so we have not been able to tell,” they write in the PNAS research.

“This paper uses satellite records of sea level rise, precipitation and evaporation to put together a unique 13-year record – the longest and first of its kind,” the researchers add.

“The trends were all the same: increased evaporation from the ocean that led to increased precipitation on land and more flow back into the ocean,” they conclude.

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