Climate change has a significant impact on our lakes, rivers, streams, seas, and the water cycle itself, as it does on everything else on the globe. Water’s effects serve as a sobering reminder of just how intertwined everything is on this life-giving organism we name Earth. The impact of climate change are amplified when the atmosphere warms, resulting in warmer waters, more rainfall in some areas, and drought in others, thereby perpetuating the detrimental cycle.
It is critical to understand that climate change equals water change at all times. Anyone concerned about protecting our rivers must also be aware of and vocal about climate change’s effects. Both strong rainfall and harsh droughts are becoming more likely as a result of climate change. Because the water cycle on Earth is strongly dependent on temperature, it’s not surprising that the planet’s growing temperature affects how water travels and circulates. According to scientists, climate change has a significant impact on atmospheric water vapor concentrations, clouds, precipitation patterns, runoff, and streamflow patterns.
Because the water cycle on Earth is strongly dependent on temperature, it’s not surprising that the planet’s growing temperature affects how water travels and circulates. According to scientists, climate change has a significant impact on atmospheric water vapor concentrations, clouds, precipitation patterns, runoff, and streamflow patterns.
More rain, less snow
As previously stated, Earth’s warming atmosphere will cause more precipitation to fall as rain rather than snow. What is the significance of this? During the summer, certain areas rely on the gradual melting of the snowpack to provide surface water. During the summer, a reduced snowfall leads to decreased flows and increased water stress, a trend that is already being witnessed around the world. Surface water shortages will lead to a greater reliance on – and exploitation of – limited groundwater sources.
Worldwide sea level rise
The resultant worldwide sea-level rise is one of the more well-known talking points in relation to climate change’s influence on water.
The expansion of the ocean as it heats and increasing melt from ice sheets, ice caps, and glaciers will cause climate change-induced sea-level rise. This has significant implications for the planet’s freshwater supplies, which can be contaminated by saltwater, in addition to the disastrous effects on coastal people and infrastructure. If this were to happen, aquifer water would have to be treated using an energy-intensive procedure before it could be used for irrigation or consumption.
Because of rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, the ocean has become a heat sink. As the world’s most immense solar energy collector, the ocean helps to keep our planet’s climate system in check. Overextended periods of time, our oceans retain and release heat without growing in temperature.
However, this, like so many other aspects of our planet, is changing. The heat emanating from the Earth’s surface becomes trapped and can’t escape into space as freely as it used to as growing amounts of greenhouse gases enter the atmosphere due to human activities. Do you see where I’m heading with this? Yes, most of the extra heat is being stored in the upper ocean, which is presently heating up. The heat content of the ocean rises when it absorbs more heat than it releases.
After initial absorption, heat energy in the ocean can warm the Earth for decades by melting ice shelves, causing water to evaporate or directly reheating the atmosphere. Last year, most ocean basins throughout the world experienced higher-than-average heat content, according to the Global Climate Report: “According to recent studies, warming in the upper seas contributes for around 63 percent of the overall increase in the amount of stored heat in the climate system from 1971 to 2010, and warming from 700 meters down to the ocean floor accounts for another 30 percent.”
Messing with the AMOC and altered ocean circulation patterns
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Current (AMOC), often known as the “Ocean Conveyor Belt,” is a vast system of circulating seawater. It plays a vital role in the global climate system. Thus any considerable changes have a global influence. The AMOC is the driving force behind the world’s ocean currents: a large amount of cooler water sinking in the North Atlantic stirs up the entire ocean and generates currents in the Southern and Pacific oceans.
Scientists have been gathering evidence that suggests rising sea temperatures and increasing freshwater from melting glaciers due to climate change are altering, weakening, and delaying this vital stream using anchored equipment that tracks currents deep beneath the surface. The current has weakened by up to 30% since 1957, according to moorings set in the middle of the Atlantic in 2004.
What is the significance of this? The density of cold, salty water allows the AMOC to function. In the North Atlantic, cold waters sink and flow south, while warm tropical seas near the surface flow north in the Gulf Stream. When northern waters warm-up or the salt in the water is diluted by melting ice, the water becomes too dense to sink. The water attempting to go north encounters a ‘jamming effect .’ The system comes to a halt.
The AMOC might decelerate by 54 percent by the end of the century if emissions continue to rise and global temperatures exceed 4 degrees Celsius, resulting in complex and cascading repercussions for global temperatures, rainfall patterns, and weather systems.
Coral reef ecosystems are stressed out.
Climate change is the greatest threat to the world’s coral reef ecosystems due to various variables such as sea-level rise, ocean warming, ocean acidity due to higher CO2 levels, precipitation variations, and changing currents.
- Rising ocean temperatures can put organisms under ‘thermal stress,’ causing coral bleaching and making them vulnerable to disease.
- Sea level rise: Rising sea levels can produce silt discharge for corals near shore, suffocating them.
- Increased freshwater flow, silt, and land-based contaminants contribute to algal blooms and murky water conditions, which decrease light.
- Changes in ocean currents cause changes in connectivity and temperature regimes, resulting in a lack of food for corals and hampered coral larvae spread.
- Ocean acidification reduces the pH of the ocean, reducing coral growth and structural integrity.