Skip to content

Related Workshop

Related Workshop

The Ocean and Earth's Changing Water Cycle: Past, Present, Future

May 16-18, 2012

Clark 507, Quissett Campus
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Though most of the Earth’s water resides in the oceans and they are the ultimate source of most rainfall, lack of data from the ocean has limited what we can understand and predict about the global water cycle. Progress in understanding how the modes of ocean-atmosphere variability affect precipitation patterns on land, both in the distant past and in recent times, holds promise for predicting droughts and floods in the future. In addition, global warming is expected to intensify the water cycle, and recent analysis of oceanic salinity trends indicates that the intensification may be much stronger than anyone anticipated. This portends significant change in the frequency, duration and intensity of both droughts and floods, which are arguably the most dangerous aspects of climate change for society. Improving our understanding of how the oceans impact the global water cycle will be a vital contributor to better management of the water systems that maintain our civilization in coming decades.

Through grants from Elisabeth and Henry Morss and the WHOI Oceans and Climate Change Institute, we are organizing a two day colloquium on the role of the oceans in the global water cycle. Goals are:

  • To foster interaction between the oceanographic and meteorological research communities and water system manager communities to focus on the global water cycle.
  • To promote public understanding of the anticipated changes in the water cycle and how they will impact society.

Goal 1 will be served by reviewing the impact of past changes in the water cycle as documented in the paleo-record and examine the prospects for improved rainfall predictions based on new understanding of the modes of ocean-atmosphere variability. We will also focus on the remarkably large salinity changes that have been documented in the ocean over the past 50 years, and try to understand what they portend for the expected changes in the intensity of the water cycle.

Goal 2 will be addressed by the participation of water system managers from both dry and wet areas. The longer droughts, more extreme flooding and decreasing snowpack will have tremendous impacts on the future of water systems for a growing world population. We plan to explore new modes of communication between the research community and those who can make use of such information. We are planning an evening panel discussion on the 17th open to the general public as well as an NPR radio interview on the topic. The colloquium will be in the same venue and immediately follow the CLIVAR/GEWEX workshop on the “Application of GRACE data to climate modeling and analysis.”


Session 1: Wednesday Afternoon, May 16, 2012
Society and the water cycle: What do water system managers need from scientists?
1:00 p.m. Welcome
Susan Avery, President & Director
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA
1:10 p.m. Introduction and Meeting Objectives
Ray Schmitt
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA
1:30 p.m. Arid Regions Water Challenges
Michael Gritzuk
Former Director, Pima County Wastewater Management Department, Tucson, AZ
2:15 p.m. Wet Region Challenges
Richard Palmer, College of Engineering Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA
3:00 p.m. Coffee, Refreshments
3:15 p.m. U.S. Energy Security and Water
Paul Faeth
CNA Corporation, Alexandria, VA
4:00 p.m. Challenges Faced by Developing Countries
Anthony Patt
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg, Austria
5:00 Reception: Clark Lab 507 Foyer, drinks and appetizers will be served.
Session 2: Thursday Morning, May 17, 2012 How Fast is the Water Cycle Changing?
8:00 a.m. Continental Breakfast
8:30 a.m. Ocean Salinities Reveal Strong Water Cycle Intensification During 1950-2000
Paul Durack
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, CA
9:15 a.m. Decadal Trends in Ocean Evaporation
Lisan Yu
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA
10:00 a.m. Coffee Break
10:15 a.m. The Satellite Record of Ocean Evaporation: Methodologies and Challenges
Carol Anne Clayson
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA
11:00 a.m. Land-Ocean Contrasts in the Response of the Hydrological Cycle and Surface Temperature to Radiative Forcing
Paul O’Gorman
Massachucetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
12 Noon Buttery Lunch in Clark 507
Session 3: Thursday Afternoon, May 17, 2012
The Past and Future Water Cycle.
1:00 p.m.    Ocean and Hydrologic Variability Over Thousands to Millions of Years
David M. Anderson
NOAA's National Climatic Data Center Boulder, CO
1:45 p.m.    High Resolution Paleoclimate Evidence for Droughts and Pluvials During the Common Era
Kevin Anchukaitis
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, New York
2:30 p.m. Coffee, refreshments
2:45 p.m. Past, Present and Future of Drought in Southwestern North America
Richard Seager
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, New York
3:30 p.m. Australian Droughts and Indo-Pacific Climate Variability: Implications for Predictions
Caroline Ummenhofer
Woods Hole Oceanographic Insitution, Woods Hole, MA
4:15 p.m Climate Change and Extreme Weather
Kevin Trenberth
National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO
Public Panel Discussion
Redfield Auditorium, WHOI, Woods Hole MA.
May 17, 2012, 7:00 p.m.
Session 4: Friday Morning, May 18, 2012
Data Resources and Future Research and Development Initiatives on the Marine Water Cycle
8:00 a.m. Continental Breakfast
8:30 a.m.    The Aquarius Salinity Satellite and Upper Ocean Salt Balance
Gary Lagerloef
Earth and Space Research, Seattle, WA
9:15 a.m. Salinity from ARGO
Breck Owens
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
10:00 a.m. Coffee Break
10:15 a.m. Global Precipitation Data Sets: Sources, Methods, Applications and Caveats
Phil Arkin
Univ. Maryland, College Park, MD
Group Discussion
Moderated by Ray Schmitt, WHOI
What is needed for a new research and development initiative that addresses changes in the global water cycle and societal responses to those changes?