Monday, August 18, 2014

Climate Change Reflected in Altered Missouri River Flow, USGS Report Says

The Missouri River winds through the countryside near Williston, N.D. The river's streamflow has changed significantly over the last 50 years.  (Credit: Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press) Click to enlarge.
The Missouri River's stream flow has changed significantly over the last 50 years, leading to serious water shortages in Montana and Wyoming and flooding in the Dakotas, according to a U.S. Geological Survey report released last month.

In the Dakotas, flooding is more common, leaving fields too muddy to plant or harvest crops.

This dichotomy isn't necessarily a surprise.

"Climate change models predict that where it is wet, it will get wetter, and where it is dry, it will get drier," said Matt Rice, a program director at American Rivers, a nonprofit conservation organization.

The mighty Missouri River begins in the Rocky Mountains of western Montana, flowing east and south for more than 2,300 miles before entering the Mississippi River north of St. Louis.  The Missouri and its tributaries provide hydropower as well as water for agriculture, energy, recreation and municipalities in several states, including Montana, Nebraska, Wyoming and the Dakotas.

Climate shifts may be causing the disparate changes in the Missouri River Basin, the USGS report says.  The scientists noted that higher stream flow in the Dakotas had occurred even as water use increased.  In addition, they said, lower stream flow in some areas could be related in part to groundwater pumping.

In the Great Plains, average air temperatures have warmed 3 to 4 degrees in the last century, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.  That contributes to the problem.

Climate Change Reflected in Altered Missouri River Flow, USGS Report Says

No comments:

Post a Comment