Climate Change Is Driving The Colorado River To Shrivel

By Sayan Basak posted 02-23-2020 12:37


Recent articles claim that the flow of the Colorado River is gradually turning to be unsteady due to the combined effects of global warming and climatic variation. The celebrated River, which also serves as the primary source of water for millions of Americans have reported having been drying up accelerating the issues of severe water shortages. The advanced numerical modeling, coupled with various simulation trials, has visualized the shift in the pathway of how the 1450 mile long river out-flux is changing.

The primary reason behind the change in the pattern is credited to the human-induced global warming effects. The emissions of a higher volume of the greenhouse gases result in a higher evaporation rate of the water from the river source by absorbing more Sun's energy. It's very as during the summers we fill thirsty more than winters because of the temperature profile. Fortunately, we have access to an unlimited amount of water, which we can replenish with, which is not in the case of rivers since our natural resources re constant. The geography of Colorado is fascinating. The area incepts with an elevation in the Rocky Mountains range and then plunges through ranchlands and canyons, including the Grand Canyon. The canyon used to empty into the Gulf of California in Mexico years ago. However, now it drains very distantly to the Gulf due to the manipulating of the water stream, making it accessible for US agriculture and cities (the entire range from Denver to Tijuana).

The loss of Albedo as snow and ice melt away is diminishing the flow of Colorado by 9.5% for every 100C of warming, according to the research promulgated in Science.

The pre-industrial era had already recorded a 1oC rise in the mean temperature and data sciences predict that the value will evolve to be 3oC, by the end of the century. As far as the Colorado scenario is concerned, the elevating risk of the water shortages cannot be compensated with the increase in the amount of rainfall since that is, in turn, related to snow, which indirectly is functionalized the river water.

Brad Udall, a senior scientist at Colorado State University, said, "This has important implications for water users and managers alike. More broadly, these results tell us that we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as soon as we possibly can. We've wasted nearly 30 years bickering over the Science. The Science is crystal clear – we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions immediately”.

Sources claim that the upper basin supplies water to around 40 million people. Apart from the source of water, the entire ecosystem supports job security for more than 16 million people. It feeds the two largest water reserves in the US, Lake Powell, and Lake Mead, with the latter supplying Las Vegas with almost all of its water.

The snowpacks have been the reinforcing agent for the water source of the Colorado River. Not only on each spring, the snow replenishes the River but also acts as a threshold barrier to prevent the flood. As the climate heats up, the River is evaporating away, and the risk of damaging wildfires is elevating.

With the increase in urbanization and excessive use of our natural resources, we are not only pushing the planet to experience another mass extinction, but also bringing down the viability of our next generation. Lake Mead, the vast reservoir formed by the Hoover dam, has dropped to levels not seen since the 1960s.

We need to realize that this beautiful planet is not asking us to save her but to save our next generation. And trust me, the only solution is not to look for a different living habitat (for instance, Mars), but to start taking care of the planet which hosted us for thousand of centuries. 

P.S- The figure is for representative purposes only, Copyright reserved New Hampshire Public Radio-2020