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U.C. Irvine Study Finds Marked Increase In Flow of Fresh Water From Melting Glaciers

November 2, 2010 – From Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media.

Another sign from the research community that Earth’s temperature is rising: The volume of fresh water flowing down the world’s rivers has increased markedly since 1994, new satellite data confirms.

The study (also see here) led by the University of California, Irvine, appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on October 4, “is the first to estimate global fresh-water flow into the world’s oceans using observations from new satellite technology rather than through computer or hydrological models,” Margot Roosevelt of the Los Angeles Times reported in a blog October 5. Science News, among other news outlets, also reported on the findings.

Annual fresh-water flow increased 18 percent from 1994 to 2006, the study found. The trend suggests that the global cycles of rainfall and evaporation are accelerating — a development that could intensify storms, floods, and droughts.

The U.C. Irvine findings coincide with other work by California researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and elsewhere who have tracked earlier snowmelt in the Sierra — one consequence of warming temperatures over several decades in the American West.

“Until now, we have had no continuous record of global-scale river discharge,” Jay Famiglietti, the principal investigator for the U.C. Irvine study, said in Roosevelt’s blog. “If these trends persist, they will be a smoking gun that the water cycle intensification, predicted by climate scientists, is already upon us.”

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