UCI Study: Too Much Fresh Water Hitting Oceans

Satellite tracking of worldwide storms for more than a decade show melting polar ice sheets and increased rainfall are sending more fresh water into the oceans at the same time areas that need rain are getting less, according to a first-of-its-kind study by scientists at UC Irvine.

“In general, more water is good,” said Jay Famiglietti, UCI Earth system science professor and principal investigator on the study. “But here’s the problem: Not everybody is getting more rainfall, and those who are may not need it.”

“What we’re seeing,” he added, “is exactly what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted — that precipitation is increasing in the tropics and the Arctic Circle, with heavier, more punishing storms. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of people live in semiarid regions, and those are drying up.”

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First-of-its-kind study finds alarming increase in flow of water into oceans

UCI-led team cites global warming, accelerated cycle of evaporation, precipitation

Irvine, Calif. — Freshwater is flowing into Earth’s oceans in greater amounts every year, a team of researchers has found, thanks to more frequent and extreme storms linked to global warming. All told, 18 percent more water fed into the world’s oceans from rivers and melting polar ice sheets in 2006 than in 1994, with an average annual rise of 1.5 percent.

“That might not sound like much – 1.5 percent a year – but after a few decades, it’s huge,” said Jay Famiglietti, UC Irvine Earth system science professor and principal investigator on the study, which will be published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He noted that while freshwater is essential to humans and ecosystems, the rain is falling in all the wrong places, for all the wrong reasons.

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