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Salt in Oceans May Be the Next Big Predictor of Rains for Crops

A Boston startup is using ocean salinity to forecast rainfall totals at a time when drought is hurting food supplies.

A corn field on a farm in Baxter, Iowa.

A corn field on a farm in Baxter, Iowa.

Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

There’s a new indicator that forecasters are using to predict how much rain inland farms like the US Corn Belt will get: Salt.

Brinier water on the surface of the ocean can predict heavier rainfall that will fall far from the coasts, according to Boston-based Salient Predictions. The company, whose clients include seed and crop chemical giant BASF SE, is using the technique to forecast precipitation totals and help farmers at a time when drought is hurting food supplies. World food prices hit record highs earlier this year, partially as dryness and extreme heat damaged plants in important growing regions from the European Union to Brazil.