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NASA Says Humans Are Causing Massive Changes In Location of Water Around the World (desertsun.com) 99

Using measurements from Earth-observing satellites, NASA scientists have found that humans have dramatically altered the location of water around the world. "The team of researchers analyzed 14 years of data from NASA's twin GRACE satellites and studied regions that have seen large increases or decreases in the total amount of freshwater, including water in lakes and rivers and water stored in underground aquifers, soil, snow and ice," reports The Desert Sun. From the report: The scientists examined precipitation trends and other data to determine the most likely causes of these huge losses and gains of water around the world. Their findings in a new study reveal that of the 34 "hotspots" of water change in places from California to China, the trends in about two-thirds of those areas may be linked to climate change or human activities, such as excessive groundwater pumping in farming regions. In eight of the 34 regions, the researchers said the trends reflect "possible" or "probable" impacts of climate change, including losses of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, precipitation increases in the high latitudes of Eurasia and North America, the retreat of Alaska's glaciers and melting ice fields in Patagonia.

They ascribed changes in 12 regions to natural variability, including a progression from a dry period to a wet period in the northern Great Plains, a drought in eastern Brazil and wetter periods in the Amazon and tropical West Africa. In 14 of the areas -- more than 40 percent of the hotspots -- the scientists associated the water shifts partially or largely with human activity. That included groundwater depletion combined with drought in Southern California and the southern High Plains from Kansas to the Texas Panhandle, as well as in the northern Middle East, northern Africa, southern Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.
The first-of-its-kind study has been published in the journal Nature.

NASA Says Humans Are Causing Massive Changes In Location of Water Around the World

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  • Anyone surprised? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 17, 2018 @03:10AM (#56625330)

    Intensive agriculture, water reservoirs, flood protection walls, hydroelectric plants, Three Gorges Dam, Aral Sea, etc. We are massively changing our environment since the dawn of civilisation, this is not surprising at all. A more interesting study would look into the impact these changes have on biodiversity and (micro-) climate.

    • Re:Anyone surprised? (Score:5, Informative)

      by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Thursday May 17, 2018 @03:25AM (#56625362)

      Yeah, this is nothing new.

      There is a fantastic documentary called Cadillac Desert [youtube.com]. One of the comments said said the title was mislabeled; it should have been called: "Mulholland's Greed - The rape and pillage of Owen's Lake" :-(

    • Agree; nobody should be surprised, and I don't think anyone is disputing, that humans, through land-use change, have caused some massive changes to water distribution.

      California, for example, is likely fucking itself out of an agricultural future, if it keeps going the way it has been. Nobody wants to give them more water.

      The only part I dispute is that they can reliably tell what aspects of that may be genuinely attributable to "climate change".
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Agree; nobody should be surprised, and I don't think anyone is disputing, that humans, through land-use change, have caused some massive changes to water distribution. California, for example, is likely fucking itself out of an agricultural future, if it keeps going the way it has been. Nobody wants to give them more water. The only part I dispute is that they can reliably tell what aspects of that may be genuinely attributable to "climate change".

        California and some of its neighbouring states are pumping dry an aquifer that was laid down during the last ice age and that hasn't been replenished at anything like the rate it was back then for the last 10.000 years. As for what aspects of the examples they name may be genuinely attributable to "climate change", when glaciers are melting away I'm pretty sure that's "climate change", when a region is struck by drought after drought at previously unseen frequency, I'm pretty sure that constitutes "climate

      • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday May 17, 2018 @08:05AM (#56625952) Homepage Journal

        California, for example, is likely fucking itself out of an agricultural future, if it keeps going the way it has been. Nobody wants to give them more water.

        If nobody wants to eat fresh vegetables, that's fine, but this is where they are produced for a reason. Over 50% of the food we eat in the USA is produced in California. Those vast fields in the midwest mostly produce export crops, and corn for fuel ethanol which is grown continuously and with synthetic fertilizers that literally destroy topsoil and turn it into an inert hydroponic growth medium. California is the best place in the USA to produce vegetables, period, the end. Mexico is the next-best place nearby (it's actually too hot to grow a lot of things there) but then you have to pay more for shipping, and produce is picked even less ripe and gassed even more to ripen because it has to travel further. It also further restricts varieties, because some travel better than others.

        But by all means, don't give California water. We'll give you back fifty dollar tomatoes.

        • Re:Anyone surprised? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by CodeHog ( 666724 ) <joe.slacker@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Thursday May 17, 2018 @10:15AM (#56626634) Homepage

          "California is the best place in the USA to produce vegetables, period". Right, and we were all a lot worse off without CA growing vegetables. Wait, didn't the CA food industry started in the 1920s? It might be a good place to grow them year round but there are more variables to growing vegetables such as, wait for it, adequate water supply.

          "Those vast fields in the midwest mostly produce export crops, and corn for fuel ethanol which is grown continuously and with synthetic fertilizers that literally destroy topsoil and turn it into an inert hydroponic growth medium." A good percentage is also grown for fed and seed. It was roughly 40% fuel to 36% feed 5 years ago, the rest exported. So I was a bit off on the seed part but still have to grow seed corn. Ask DeKalb, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]. Cool hats btw.

          Also, there's been plenty of advancement in agriculture that doesn't destroy the topsoil and helps minimize usage of fertilizers and weed / insect killer. No till is gain popularity for example. Bio-engineering of the plants is another area that has been advancing.

          Tomatos, green beans, cucumbers, peppers all grow fine in the Midwest soil, not year round but that's why people use to can vegetables and have cellars. Grow big gardens, harvest and store for the winter until next year. If the CA vegetable industry were to drop off things would be rough for a few years but people would figure it out. And IMO the Midwest would be in good shape quicker than other areas.

          • Tomatos, green beans, cucumbers, peppers all grow fine in the Midwest soil, not year round but that's why

            ...they're grown in California. Thanks for playing!

            people use to can vegetables and have cellars.

            Less homes in the midwest have cellars than ever before [twincities.com], and people want to eat fresh vegetables all year. That was the whole premise of my comment. Thanks for ignoring reality.

        • Re:Anyone surprised? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Phasedshift ( 415064 ) on Thursday May 17, 2018 @10:22AM (#56626686)

          The issue isn't "tomatoes", most of the agricultural water use in California is for nuts, not tomatoes. This is important because (most) nuts travel quite well and can be packaged for transport easier, so costs to import are quite a bit less than other crops. This is also ignoring the fact that if California keeps doing what it is doing, they will be forced to stop anyway due to cost/depth of groundwater due to depletion.

          So yes, please stop using as much water for crops such as nuts, and instead grow them somewhere else that gets more rainfall to support them.

        • Re:Anyone surprised? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Mab_Mass ( 903149 ) on Thursday May 17, 2018 @10:45AM (#56626840) Homepage Journal

          Those vast fields in the midwest mostly produce export crops, and corn for fuel ethanol which is grown continuously and with synthetic fertilizers that literally destroy topsoil and turn it into an inert hydroponic growth medium.

          It isn't just export crops and ethanol fuel. These vast fields area also growing huge amounts of animal feed that is trucked around the country to concentrated animal feeding operations and converted into protein and waste manure.

          There is also a lot of it that is shipped over to chemical processing plants to make all of your favorite food additives.

          The troubles with this kind of farming run deep.

        • Water management (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Freischutz ( 4776131 ) on Thursday May 17, 2018 @12:19PM (#56627518)

          California, for example, is likely fucking itself out of an agricultural future, if it keeps going the way it has been. Nobody wants to give them more water.

          If nobody wants to eat fresh vegetables, that's fine, but this is where they are produced for a reason. Over 50% of the food we eat in the USA is produced in California. Those vast fields in the midwest mostly produce export crops, and corn for fuel ethanol which is grown continuously and with synthetic fertilizers that literally destroy topsoil and turn it into an inert hydroponic growth medium. California is the best place in the USA to produce vegetables, period, the end. Mexico is the next-best place nearby (it's actually too hot to grow a lot of things there) but then you have to pay more for shipping, and produce is picked even less ripe and gassed even more to ripen because it has to travel further. It also further restricts varieties, because some travel better than others.

          But by all means, don't give California water. We'll give you back fifty dollar tomatoes.

          That is only half the story, the other half of it is the stupidity of growing water intensive crops in places that get less then 5 inches of rain every year and irrigating these crops with ground water. Ground water is not an infinite resource, especially in relatively arid places like much of California is. There is a well known photo of Joseph Poland of the U.S. Geological Survey who used a telephone pole to demonstrate where a farmer would have been standing in 1925, 1955 and where Poland was then standing. By then the land in the San Joaquin Valley had sunk nearly 30 feet and this was in 1977. Since then much more water has been pumped out of the ground, apparently on the assumption that there is an infinite supply since California does not regulate ground water like surface water. All over the state people are finding themselves drilling hundreds and even thousands of feet for ground water and when they find it what they pump up are ground water deposits laid down 20.000 year ago when mastodons and sabre toothed cats still roamed the landscape. Land subsidence due to ground water depletion has caused sinking bridges, cracking canals and buckling highways, torn runways to name but a few problems and repairing them has cost the California taxpayer billions of dollars. This whole issue is about stupid water management and waste which is something that should be of particular interest to California farmers and it should be very much in their interest to support water management reform seeing as how their entire existence stands and falls with proper water management.

        • There's no reason for another state to give California water, when a large percentage of California gets tons of rain. It's simply a matter of internal distribution.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Agree; nobody should be surprised, and I don't think anyone is disputing, that humans, through land-use change, have caused some massive changes to water distribution.

        Not only are they surprised, and in denial, they are indignant at the thought. You can see them already in this thread.

        There's a reason for so much bluster and anger at liberals and environmentalists, it provides a lot of noise to shout out the reasoned discussion.

        California, for example, is likely fucking itself out of an agricultural future, if it keeps going the way it has been. Nobody wants to give them more water.

        Give them water? People want to take California's water and give them back a load of piss. The state has had to sue Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada for their carp. And it isn't the only state with disputes. See the Florida/Alabama/Ge

      • California, for example, is likely fucking itself out of an agricultural future

        They could start by kicking out of the nut growers. Nuts are ridiculous in the amount of water required. For example, almost 5 gallons for a single Walnut. Gee, I think I could live without walnuts. And CA grows 99% of all walnuts produced in the US. And 99% of almonds. And 98% of pistachios.

        CA's aquifers are being sucked dry for the profits of these companies.

  • California (Score:5, Informative)

    by MoarSauce123 ( 3641185 ) on Thursday May 17, 2018 @06:56AM (#56625734)
    Just look at California, there was never much water and what is there gets mainly exported as vegetables, fruits, nuts, and wine. The rest is wasted on an insane number of golf courses.
    • This was my first thought as well. Look at water that is diverted from neighboring states into California, specifically southern California.

      We have large amounts of people moving into deserts, then we move water resources there causing issues where the water should be.

      Duh...

      • by Anonymous Coward

        This was my first thought as well.

        That may be very revealing then.

        Look at water that is diverted from neighboring states into California, specifically southern California.

        You have it backwards, the neighboring states divert water from California for their own usages.

        That's how the geography of the region works.

        We have large amounts of people moving into deserts, then we move water resources there causing issues where the water should be.

        There are water Issues around the world. Try the Great Plains. Remember the Dust Bowl? Atlanta. Ever hear about the disputes that Georgia has with Tennessee, Alabama, and Florida? Miami. Just look at the Okachobee. Move outside the US and look up Capetown. Or Barcelona. Rome. Cairo. Moscow. Calcutta. Sydney. Beijing.

        Don't

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      To support the Californian farmers in periods of drought, I buy as many almond products as I can. I am doing my part, how about you?

    • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Thursday May 17, 2018 @02:21PM (#56628328) Journal

      The rest is wasted on an insane number of golf courses.

      Actually, golf courses are going out of fashion and out of business (or just "closed" in the case of government-owned ones) in California.

      Newer generations mostly aren't taking up golf and older ones are finding other things to do or just getting too old to enjoy it. Meanwhile the cost of water (for the horribly thirsty institutions) has skyrocketed and regulatory bodies are rejecting applications when misguided city councils or developers try to install one, rather than, say, parks with low-water landscaping) to fill their "open space" requirements.

    • Just look at California, there was never much water and what is there gets mainly exported as vegetables, fruits, nuts, and wine. The rest is wasted on an insane number of golf courses.

      Hey! - Golf is great exercise for people who would otherwise sit on their ass drinking margaritas all day...

  • by Type44Q ( 1233630 ) on Thursday May 17, 2018 @07:23AM (#56625812)

    and the southern High Plains from Kansas to the Texas Panhandle

    Q) Why is Kansas so windy?

    A) Because Oklahoma sucks and Nebraska blows.

  • To quote a great woman - Mother nature is out of her league. We'll decide where the water goes thank you very much.
  • Take a look at an atlas. See how much we love to live near the sea? Those large cities radiate political force that draws in water from lakes and rivers thousands of miles inland, forcing inland populations to pump local groundwater.

    If coastal cities would desalinate their own local water supplies, the lakes and rivers would now be available for use by those living inland.

    • If coastal cities would desalinate their own local water supplies, the lakes and rivers would now be available for use by those living inland.

      Instead, most coastal cities are probably going away. Especially given that the water is rising and the land is sinking. I've a suggestion to keep you all occupied...

      • At currently foreseeable values of ocean rise, we're not going to lose any entire cities except possibly for New Orleans. We will lose the lowest-lying parts of the coast, which to a city the size of, say, Los Angeles, is just a shaving.

        • At currently foreseeable values of ocean rise, we're not going to lose any entire cities except possibly for New Orleans. We will lose the lowest-lying parts of the coast, which to a city the size of, say, Los Angeles, is just a shaving.

          When the sea level rises a small amount, storm runup rises a larger amount.

  • Dam everywhere.... ;-P

  • It's an emergency! Quick, defund NASA!!

  • It's amazing to see how often different environmental chicken littles clash.

  • Today: NASA scientists have found that humans have dramatically altered the location of water around the world.
    Tomorrow: Trump removes NASA funding for the study of water location around the world.

  • Liet Kynes would be proud.

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