Colorado River Is Shrinking Due To Climate Change

Posted: Feb 24 2017, 10:55pm CST | by , Updated: Feb 25 2017, 12:50am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

Colorado River is Shrinking Due to Climate Change
Photo Credit: Getty Images
 

The Colorado River is drying so rapidly that it will shrink more than 50 percent by the end of the century, a new study reveals.

Researchers from the University of Arizona have found that the drought and warming temperatures of the 21st century have reduced the Colorado River flow by at least 0.5 million acre-feet, which is equivalent to the amount of water used by 2 million people for one year. If the warming trend continues at this rate as many researchers suggest it might, the river will shrink further and could lead to dramatic declines in water supplies.

This study is the first to show how rising temperatures are reducing the flows of the Colorado River and are threatening water supplies to communities that have depended on them for centuries. 

"We're the first to make the case that warming alone could cause Colorado River flow declines of 30 percent by midcentury and over 50 percent by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated.” Co-lead author of the research Jonathan Overpeck said in a statement.

The Colorado River is one the major rivers in North America. It provides water to more than 40 million people in seven Western states as well as the Mexican states of Sonora and Baja, California.  

The river is suffering from a severe drought along with the rest of the Western United States. This more than a decade-long drought has contributed to the significant declines in water levels.

To quantify the effects of drought and temperature on recent Colorado River flow, researchers have reviewed 25 years of studies and found that the flow of the river declined as the temperature continued to increase with climate change. 

By analyzing data, researchers conclude that the risk of a multidecadal drought in the Southwest in the 21st century is much higher than current climate models indicate.

Overpeck said. “Even if the precipitation does increase, our work indicates that there are likely to be drought periods as long as several decades when precipitation will still fall below normal.” 

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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