Oceans Diluted With Freshwater Runoff?

Going green — By Stephanie on October 18, 2010 at 6:47 am
49 300x201 Oceans Diluted With Freshwater Runoff?

Are our oceans getting diluted as a result of the effects of global warming (image by Stephanie Hicks)

As reported in SolveClimateNews.com a few weeks ago, the amount of  water flowing into the oceans has been steadily increasing  in recent years, signifying a possible speeding up of the water cycle.

The cause is likely global climate change, and we cannot underestimate the possible effects of our oceans diluted with freshwater runoff.

A research paper published on October 4 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences analyzed the results of studies using satellites for the first time to measure global river flows.

Between 1994 and 2006, the scientists measured an 18% increase in freshwater discharge into the oceans. The source of that water included river runoff and melting ice caps. It averaged out to an additional 540 cubic kilometers of water per year.

52 300x225 Oceans Diluted With Freshwater Runoff?

Just how much additional freshwater is flowing into the oceans? (image by Stephanie Hicks)

According to Don Chambers, an associate professor of physical oceanography at the University of South Florida and a co-author of the study, the increased freshwater runoff volume was the equivalent of the Great Lakes losing six feet of water every year.

What does this mean for the Earth and its inhabitants?

For starters, the rapidly changing water cycle is a clear indication that climate change is occurring – whether we want to admit it or not.  We all know that heat causes evaporation.  Evaporated water turns into clouds, which falls as rain, swelling the rivers and causing flooding… eventually returning to the oceans as fresh water.

We’ve already seen indications that increased evaporation and precipitation often leads more extreme weather, such as prolonged droughts and more intense floods.

Scientists plan to continue studying the evidence of increased freshwater runoff to the oceans.  The initial study was only 13 years long.  Among other things, researchers want to break down the data to determine how much of the water flows originate from river runoff, or from melting ice caps or glaciers.

For more information, read Freshwater Flow Into Oceans Steadily Increasing.

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