Monday, February 27, 2017

Climate Shrinks Colorado River Flow

One of the longest US waterways, the Colorado River, has lost 20% of its flow since the year 2000, with the changing climate mostly responsible.

The Colorado River, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona: A fifth of its flow went in 14 years. (Image Credit: Fredlyfish4 via Wikimedia Commons) Click to Enlarge.
The Colorado River is dwindling, and climate change is officially to blame.  In the first 14 years of this century, the flow declined to only four-fifths of the 20th century average, according to new research.  The water lost would have been enough to supply two million people for a whole year.

Altogether, the river supplies water to seven US states and two in Mexico, and 40 million people rely on it for their water.  But the entire Colorado River basin has been experiencing sustained drought since 2000.  And somewhere between one sixth and one half of this liquid loss can be put down to global warming, scientists say.

They publish their findings in the journal Water Resources Research.  “This paper is the first to show the large role that warming temperatures are playing in reducing the flows of the Colorado River,” said Jonathan Overpeck, professor of geosciences and of hydrology and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona. 

“We’re the first to make the case that warming alone could cause Colorado River flow declines of 30% by mid-century and over 50% by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated.”

Read more at Climate Shrinks Colorado River Flow

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