New Study estimates the global extent of river ice loss as Earth warms
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New Study estimates the global extent of river ice loss as Earth warms

By Marie DeFreitas

Contributing Writer Telegraph Local | See My Website

A new study was published yesterday that estimates the global extent of river ice loss as Earth warms. The study was done the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It is titled “The past and future of global river ice, was published Jan. 1 in the journal Nature. It is the first study to look at the future of river ice on a global scale.

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The UNC website explained that more than half of Earth’s rivers freeze over every year. “These frozen rivers support important transportation networks for communities and industries located at high latitudes. Ice cover also regulates the amount of greenhouse gasses released from rivers into Earth’s atmosphere.”

New Study estimates the global extent of river ice loss as Earth warms
New Study estimates the global extent of river ice loss as Earth warms

Researchers in the university’s Department of Geological Sciences discovered that annual river ice cover will decrease by about six days for every one degree Celsius increase in global temperatures. This decrease in ice will have economic and environmental consequences. 

“We used more than 400,000 satellite images taken over 34 years to measure which rivers seasonally freeze over worldwide, which is about 56% of all large rivers,” said Xiao Yang, a postdoctoral scholar in the UNC-Chapel Hill geological sciences department and lead author on the paper. “We detected widespread declines in monthly river ice coverage. And the predicted trend of future ice loss is likely to lead to economic challenges for people and industries along these rivers, and shifting seasonal patterns in greenhouse gas emissions from the ice-affected rivers.”

The study explained: “The observed decline in river ice is likely to continue with predicted global warming.” 

The team compared expected river ice cover through 2009-2029 and 2080-2100, for the future. Their findings displayed monthly declines in the Northern Hemisphere ranging from 9–15% in the winter months and 12–68% during the spring and fall.  Eastern Europe, the Tibetan Plateau, and the U.S. The Rocky Mountains are expected to take the heaviest impact.

New Study estimates the global extent of river ice loss as Earth warms
New Study estimates the global extent of river ice loss as Earth warms

 

The research team also looked at changes to river ice cover in the past and modeled predicted changes for the future. After comparing river ice cover from 2008–2018 and 1984–1994, they found a monthly global decline ranging from .3 to 4.3 percentage points. The greatest declines were found in the Tibetan Plateau, eastern Europe and Alaska, according to their website. 

“Ultimately, what this study shows is the power of combining massive amounts of satellite imagery with climate models to help better project how our planet will change,” said UNC-Chapel Hill Associate Professor of global hydrology Tamlin Pavelsky.

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George Allen, assistant professor of geography at Texas A&M University, worked with Xiao and Tamlin on the study. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory funded the work, according to EurekAlert

Marie DeFreitas
Marie DeFreitas is a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design, (B.F.A Writing, B.F.A. Illustration) and is currently based out of Raleigh, North Carolina.
https://www.mariedefreitas.com/

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