Changes in water sources linked to climate crisis


Hunter Berube

Suffolk Climate Watch graphic

Notable changes to the Earth’s rivers are being seen as a result of human action and the climate crises, and they could potentially cause extreme weather events.

According to Phys, river flow measures the water sources that are available to the environment and to humans. Different sources can impact how much water is available for use, influencing river flow itself.

“We already know that climate change causes significant harm to the Earth’s ecosystems, but the effect it shares on influencing river flow resulting in an increase in droughts and flooding is another consequential revelation,” said Britton Mallard, treasurer of the Suffolk Environmental Club. 

Earth’s water sources are important because they help ensure the planet stays warm. According to Ocean Explorer, the ocean helps to absorb radiation from the sun, especially in tropical areas. However, this heat also increases tropical storms and extreme weather. 

The journal Science sampled 7,250 rivers across the world between 1971-2010, according to Bloomberg. Scientists used similar methods that are practiced today in order to identify climate-caused weather events.

Two sets of model simulations were produced in this process, according to The Independent. One simulation reflected today’s climate while the other mirrored a “pre-industrial” climate, before fossil fuels were excessively burned. 

Models that were affected by greenhouse gases had low, average or high pattern river flows, according to Bloomberg.

“Our analysis shows for the first time using direct observations that climate change is detectable in river flows at the global scale,” Dr. Lukas Gudmundsson, ETH Zurich climate scientist, told The Independent

These researchers found the data reflected would not be possible without climate change, according to Phys. The study was the first to show the visible link between the climate crisis and rivers.

According to Bloomberg, the study found about a quarter of freshwater fish species are at the risk of extinction due to industrial development.

Climate change has been shown to dry out soils and change global rainfall patterns, impacting how much moisture enters the river system, according to The Independent

“Thanks to this data, we were able to validate the models and demonstrate that they provide a good reflection of reality,” Gudmundsonn told Phys

Greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase, diminishing water resources and affecting the environment and humanity. According to The Independent, communities will be directly affected by fluctuating river flow around the world.