News / Science & Technology

Global Warming Might Threaten Water Supply

Frank Gehrke, right, Chief of California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program measures the snowpack in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. (California Dept. of Water Resources)
Frank Gehrke, right, Chief of California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program measures the snowpack in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. (California Dept. of Water Resources)
Rosanne Skirble
Global warming over the next century could significantly reduce the amount of winter snowpack in mountainous areas in the northern hemisphere, according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change.

Seasonal snowpack melt is an essential source of fresh water, and its loss could threaten drinking water supplies, agricultural irrigation and wildlife ecosystems.

Stanford University climate expert Noah Diffenbaugh led the study, which compares snowpack conditions across the northern hemisphere in the late 20th century with climate model projections for the next one hundred years.

Deceasing snowpack

Those projections are based on a range of scenarios which foresee a rise in average global temperatures of between two and four degrees Celsius.

Snowpack Climate Change
Snowpack Climate Changei
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

The study concludes that average snow accumulation will decrease in most regions of the Western United States, Europe, Central Asia and the Himalayas, compared to historical patterns.  

It projects that low and extremely low snow falls would exceed the lows of the later 20th century between 10 and 30 percent of the time with two degrees of warming.
California is the world’s sixth largest agricultural exporter and is dependent on snowpack for those crops. (California Dept. of Water Resources)California is the world’s sixth largest agricultural exporter and is dependent on snowpack for those crops. (California Dept. of Water Resources)
x
California is the world’s sixth largest agricultural exporter and is dependent on snowpack for those crops. (California Dept. of Water Resources)
California is the world’s sixth largest agricultural exporter and is dependent on snowpack for those crops. (California Dept. of Water Resources)

And, Diffenbaugh says, "If the planet warms by 4 degrees Celsius, the United could experience snowpack accumulations below the levels of the late 20th century up to 80 percent of the years.”

The story is the same in other parts of the northern hemisphere, where snowpack is a natural, and critical, water reservoir.  

Water worries

The study finds that an early spring melt would bring more water into the watershed sooner than usual, potentially flooding rivers, lakes and artificially dammed-river reservoirs.

And with less water available later in the season, chances for more wildfires, pests, and species extinctions increase.  

Diffenbaugh says this timing would also exacerbate drought conditions when the demand for water is greatest.

“We can infer that should these physical climate changes occur in the future, that there would be impacts on water supply for agriculture and for human consumption and for natural ecosystems if the water storage and management systems are not adapted to those changes.”

According to climate models, extreme rain events are expected to increase as the planet warms.  

However, Diffenbaugh says, that won’t change how the snowpack responds to climate change. 

“Even where there are increases in extreme precipitation in the models, there are still robust decreases in the amount of snowpack on the ground at the end of the winter and in robust changes in the timing of runoff.”

California experiencing climate extremes

Frank Gehrke takes these findings very seriously. He heads the California Cooperative Snow Surveys program, which forecasts water flow from the mountains into man-made reservoirs that provide water for crops and people.

California is just one part of a broader picture discussed in the report. Since the state gets little rain in the spring and summer, Gehrke says timing of snow pack melt is critical.  

He says he is seeing greater climate variation than ever before. “We’re having more extremes in terms of dry and wet years. We see that not only in our record, but also in discussions with a lot of other people who are studying climate.”  
California will fine tune its snowpack measurements using new instruments on aircraft that can give water managers accurate data on snow accumulation and rate of melt. (NASA)California will fine tune its snowpack measurements using new instruments on aircraft that can give water managers accurate data on snow accumulation and rate of melt. (NASA)
x
California will fine tune its snowpack measurements using new instruments on aircraft that can give water managers accurate data on snow accumulation and rate of melt. (NASA)
California will fine tune its snowpack measurements using new instruments on aircraft that can give water managers accurate data on snow accumulation and rate of melt. (NASA)

Gehrke says California water managers need better measurement tools and higher resolution aerial images of the state’s snowpack than were available in the Stanford study. For that, the state has turned to the U.S. space agency’s Airborne Snow Observatory.  

Flying at altitudes of about 7,000 meters, the photo-reconnaissance aircraft capture detailed images of mountain snowpack over a wide area, allowing scientists to more accurately compute the entire volume of water in a given watershed.   

The NASA flights will also measure how much sun is reflected from the snowpack, which can indicate how fast it is likely to melt.

You May Like

Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: riano baggy from: ina
November 12, 2012 12:04 AM
next decade we didn't see snow in high mountains,melting ice can high sea level,very ports must redesign again to more budget,ecosystem disturbed. and many side effect can appears..

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Paradei
X
Anush Avetisyan
November 26, 2014 10:57 PM
Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid