A scientific team from the Institut de Ciències del Mar (ICM-CSIC) in Barcelona has found that global warming is accelerating the water cycle, which could have significant consequences on the global climate systemaccording to an article recently published in the journal Scientific Reports. This could lead to a destabilization of the global climate system, an intensification of storms in specific areas and an acceleration of melting at the poles.
This acceleration of the water cycle is due to an increase in the evaporation of water from the seas and oceans. as a result of the increase in temperature. As a result, there is a greater amount of water circulating in the atmosphere in the form of vapour, 90% of which will end up falling back into the sea, while the remaining 10% will do so on the continent.
More intense storms and more polar ice melt
“The acceleration of the water cycle has implications both in the sea and on the continent, where storms could become more intense. Likewise, this increase in water circulating through the atmosphere could explain the increase in rainfall that is being detected in some polar areas, where the fact that it rains instead of snow would be accelerating the melting even more”, explains Estrella Olmedo, the lead author of the study.
On the other hand, the work shows that the decrease in wind in some areas of the ocean, which favors the stratification of the water column, that is, the water does not mix in the vertical direction, could also be contributing to the acceleration of the water cycle.
“Where the wind is no longer as strong, the surface water warms up, but does not exchange heat with the water below, thus allowing the surface to become more saline than the lower layers and the effect of evaporation to be observed with measurements. satellites”, details in this sense Antonio Turiel, another of the authors of the study, who adds that “This tells us that the atmosphere and the ocean interact in a stronger way than we imagined, with important consequences on the continents and the poles.”
Satellites, key to the study of the ocean
To prepare the study, the scientific team analyzed data on surface salinity – the one measured by satellites – from different areas of the ocean. Unlike the subsurface salinity data -obtained with instruments on-site-, satellite data allowed them to detect this acceleration of the water cycle and, for the first time, the effect of stratification in very large regions of the ocean. In his opinion, this is due to the ability of satellites to measure data continuously, regardless of environmental conditions and the accessibility of different areas of the ocean.
“We have been able to see that the surface salinity is showing an intensification of the water cycle that the subsurface salinity does not show.. Specifically, in the Pacific we have seen that surface salinity decreases more weakly than subsurface salinity and, in this same region, an increase in sea surface temperature and a decrease in wind intensity and depth are observed. of the mixed layer”, points out Olmedo.
The findings have been possible thanks to the use of algorithms and other data analysis products that the Barcelona Expert Center (BEC), attached to the ICM-CSIC, has been generating in recent years for the SMOS space mission of the European Space Agency (ESA). ), designed to improve ocean salinity observations, essential for understanding ocean circulation, one of the key factors in understanding global climate.
And it is that this circulation basically depends on the density of the water, which is determined by its temperature and salinity. For this reason, changes in these two parameters, no matter how small, can end up having important consequences on the global climate, which makes it essential to closely monitor them.
In this sense, Turiel concludes that “ocean models must normalize the assimilation of satellite salinity data, since the information they provide complements the data on-siteAnd this is crucial, especially in the current moment of climate crisis, since the changes are happening much faster than before”.
Reference article: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-10265-1
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