Satellites show climate change is thinning rivers, clearing glaciers

According to a new WMO report, droughts, floods and the melting of glaciers will affect almost every corner of the world by 2021.

Climate change is distorting rain patterns across the planet, leading to droughts and floods, while rising temperatures are causing glaciers to melt, according to the country’s first comprehensive assessment of water resources. World Meteorological Organization. WMO says its goal is to publish annual global water reports from now on in response to requests for more accurate data in an era of growing demand and limited supplies.

Global status Water Resources report for 2021, published on Tuesday, analyzes the effects that higher temperatures are having on the planet’s freshwater bodies. Global temperatures are now 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and last year was one of the seven hottest years on record.

WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas said in a statement: “The impacts of climate change are often felt through water – more frequent and intense droughts, more severe floods, erratic seasonal rainfall. and the ice melts faster”. All of these events have “a cascade impact on economies, ecosystems, and all aspects of our daily lives.”

According to UN-Water, the organization that coordinates the United Nations’ work on water and sanitation, about three-quarters of all natural disasters between 2001 and 2018 were water-related. At the same time, 3.6 billion people, nearly half the global population, face water shortages for at least one month each year — and this number is expected to grow to more than 5 billion by mid-century. this.

Inconsistent measurements and lack of data collected on the ground make understanding some of the impacts difficult. climate change are on water systems, WMO said. The researchers filled these gaps in part with modeled data and information from satellites in NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiments program, or GRACE, emphasizing the importance of satellites and remote sensing to measure global warming.

Here’s how some of 2021’s most water-related impacts are viewed from space:

the glacier is dying

Ice melting accelerates globally in 2021. Ice sheet in the West Canada and the United States and in China Europe experienced the most significant losses in the past four decades, the WMO report shows. At first, the water flowing from the melting glaciers increased, supplying water to nearby rivers and lakes until it reached a turning point that scientists call “peak water.” Then, runoff decreases, and areas that depend on that water may experience drought.

lake expansion

Also known as the “Third Pole” by glaciologists, the Tibetan Plateau has the largest reserves of freshwater outside the polar regions. Water is mainly stored in glaciers high in the mountains. Higher temperatures are accelerating their melting, shrinking glaciers and sometimes leading to flash floods. Large amounts of water end up in mountain lakes, which increase as a result.

the river is running dry

Drought in some parts of the world WE worse in 2021, with the entire west of the country affected from June. Discharge data from the Colorado, Missouri and Mississippi rivers show that the amount of water they carry is much lower than normal.

In some places, soil water reserves are increasing — nowhere more than in the Lake Victoria region of Africa. But overall, rivers are shrinking more than they grow, a trend that will continue into 2021.

Severe drought

The water shortages experienced by Iran, Iraq, and Syria in 2020 are exacerbated by a continued warm winter in 2021. That means lakes and reservoirs are not replenished before these events. hot summer months. As a result, drought affected 12 million people in Iraq and Syria and 4.8 million in Iran, leading to deadly clashes in Khuzestan province.

Drought in the Horn of Africa has led to a devastating food crisis affecting 18 million people. Even low rainfall between December 2020 and February 2021 — typically the dry season in the region — has helped alleviate the situation.

deadly flood

Changing weather patterns have resulted in unprecedented amounts of water falling in a very short time, causing devastating flooding. In 2021, floods in Western Europe killed 219 people and caused damage of up to 46 billion euros.

Turkey, Afghanistan, India and China’s Henan province were also hit by floods that killed more than 1,500 people. It’s a stark reminder that the effects of climate change are being felt everywhere.


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