Could Climate Change Banish the Colorado River?

The Colorado River at Page, Arizona’s horseshoe bend in the Grand Canyon. 

Greetings! Unfortunately, I have more sobering news for you on climate change. In a recent study, scientists say climate change is to blame for “declines in the Colorado River’s flow.”

The study conducted by US Geological Survey scientists Chris Milly and Krista A. Dunne recently published in the journal Science – “adds urgency to efforts to protect one of the country’s most vital rivers.”

The scientists explain, “The Colorado River — which provides water to more than 40 million people from Denver to Los Angeles — has seen its flow dwindle by 20 percent compared to the last century, and scientists have found that climate change is mainly to blame.” They continued and said, “That more than half of the decline in the river’s flow is connected to increasing temperatures,” and as warming continues, they explained the risk of “severe water shortages” for the millions that rely on it is expected to grow.

The Colorado River starts high in the Rocky Mountains of both Colorado and Wyoming, before it snakes its way across the Southwest on its trip to the Gulf of California

Brad Udall, a senior climate scientist at Colorado State University who’s studied the Colorado River basin for the past 30 years explains, “By the time it arrives at the [Gulf of California] its flow is reduced to a trickle.” 

As the river flows south, its water is used to supply “major cities like Denver, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Diego, along with farms in the U.S. and Mexico.” These farms grow vegetables that feed “millions around the world.”

The scientists, Milly and Dunne said, “The river supports around $1 trillion of economic activity each year.” “Without this river, American cities in the Southwest would dry up and blow away,” Udall said.

However, the river’s issues begin well before its water reaches people’s faucets. The study explained that, “Global warming is taking a severe toll on snowpack that feeds the river. As temperatures increase, snow cover in the region is declining, meaning less energy from the sun is reflected back into space, resulting in more ground warming and heat.”The US Geological Survey scientists also reported that, “For each 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit of warming averaged across the river’s basin, [the river’s] flow has decreased by nearly 10%.” Over the course of the 20th and early 21st centuries, the region has already warmed by an average of 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

The study noted that, “Some decrease in the flow is likely no matter what actions are taken, but without any cuts to emissions, the river’s discharge could shrink by between 19% and 31% by the middle of this century.”

If you are in Florida and you see a sick or injured manatee, please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at: 1-888-404-FWCC. They are the folks who are responsible for rescuing us in Florida.

Here’s the Save the Manatee Club link to learn more about us manatees …

Here’s a cool link for you to learn more about how we’re rescued and brought into rehabilitation …

~ Kobee Manatee

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