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Study predicts global warming's devastating effect on water in West

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  • Michael Dewolf
    http://story.news.yahoo.com/news? tmpl=story2&u=/ap/20021121/ap_wo_en_fe/sci_us_warming_and_the_west&e=3 Study predicts global warming s devastating effect on
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 21, 2002
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      "Study predicts global warming's devastating effect on water in West
      1 hour, 5 minutes ago

      By ANDREW BRIDGES, AP Science Writer

      LOS ANGELES - Global warming (news - web sites) will have a
      devastating effect on water availability in the western United
      States, a new climate forecast predicts.

      The report, released Thursday, involved more than two dozen
      scientists and engineers from around the country who undertook the
      study as a test of a national climate forecasting effort.

      What they found doesn't bode well for the West.

      Even the report's best-case scenario predicted water supplies would
      fall far short of future demands by cities, farms and wildlife,
      generating critical water-rights' issues that have already surfaced
      during the West's current drought.

      "You'd like there to be some good news in there somewhere, but
      unfortunately there is not," said Scripps Institution of Oceanography
      research marine physicist Tim Barnett.

      The study predicts overall precipitation levels are likely to remain
      constant, but warmer temperatures mean what would have fallen as snow
      will instead come down as rain.

      Currently, the snowpack acts a natural reservoir, storing water
      through the winter so it will melt and be released during the spring
      and summer when demand spikes. If that precipitation falls as winter
      rain, however, it will fill rivers and streams at a time of year when
      demand is low.

      To create the forecasts, scientists began two years ago with current
      observations of the state of the world's oceans — those vast
      reservoirs of heat that drive climate — and worked to translate that
      into real effects on precipitation and temperature on the West's
      three most important river systems: the Columbia, Sacramento and
      Colorado river basins.

      According to some research, global warming is due to an increase in
      atmospheric greenhouse gases, principally carbon dioxide from the
      burning of oil, gas and coal. Global temperatures are thought to have
      risen by about 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit over the last century, with the
      top few thousand feet (meters) of ocean waters increasing by about
      one-tenth of a Fahrenheit degree.

      Among the new study's forecasts for the next 25 to 50 years:

      _ Reservoir levels along the Colorado River will drop by more than a
      third, and releases by 17 percent. The lower levels and flows will
      cut hydropower generation by as much as 40 percent.

      _ The Sacramento River will see reduced reliability in the volumes of
      water available for irrigation, cities and hydropower. With less
      fresh water, the Sacramento Delta will increase in salinity,
      disrupting the ecosystem.

      _ Along the Columbia River system, there will be either water in the
      summer and fall to generate electricity, or in the spring and summer
      for salmon runs — but not both.

      "The problem is you basically can't resolve that trade-off," said
      Dennis Lettenmaier, a professor of civil and environmental
      engineering at the University of Washington.

      The continued growth in the population of the West will exacerbate
      the problem. Indeed, that alone makes for a crisis, said Bill
      Patzert, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration research
      oceanographer who was not connected with the new research.

      "The problem in the West is not climate change, it's too many ...
      people using too much water," Patzert said. "If nothing happens,
      we're in trouble. If something happens, it's worse."

      The study included researchers from institutions including Scripps,
      the University of Washington, the Energy Department and the U.S.
      Geological Survey (news - web sites). The results are expected to
      appear in a future issue of the journal Climatic Change.



      Michael Dewolf
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