While changes in land precipitation during the last 50 years have been attributed in part to human influences, results vary by season, are affected by data uncertainty and do not account for changes over ocean. One of the more physically robust responses of the water cycle to warming is the expected amplification of existing patterns of precipitation minus evaporation. Here, precipitation changes in wet and dry regions are analyzed from satellite data for 1988–2010, covering land and ocean. We derive fingerprints for the expected change from climate model simulations that separately track changes in wet and dry regions. The simulations used are driven with anthropogenic and natural forcings combined, and greenhouse gas forcing or natural forcing only. Results of detection and attribution analysis show that the fingerprint of combined external forcing is detectable in observations and that this intensification of the water cycle is partly attributable to greenhouse gas forcing.