|Is it possible to detect if global warming is
affecting the Santa Inez River?
|Question Date: 2007-03-05|
This is a very important question, but it's also a
difficult one to answer. Some of the changes that
global warming would produce are pretty complex.
For example, we would predict more severe weather
because of increased energy into the whole global
environment. This could lead to heavier rain in
some areas, but drought in others.
temperature in Santa Barbara doesn't vary much
over the year because the ocean holds a lot of
heat. In other words it "buffers" the temperature.
If you go over the mountains, the temperature
varies a lot more, and that is where most of the
water in the Santa Inez River comes
Another thing that makes this a more
complex question is that the water in this river
is first stored in Lake Cachuma (which is really a
reservoir). Water engineers can decide to release
more or less water as supply and demand change.
This buffers possible changes in the river's flow.
Of course, there's a limit to this. If there's a
drought for along time, they won't have enough
water in the reservoir to provide the flow. This
is particularly true if there's a high demand for
water. If there's way more water than usual for a
long time, they will need to release some of it to
protect the dam.
How do you predict flow
will influence the temperature of water in the
river? In other words, if a lot of water is
flowing, will it be colder or warmer than usual?
How will flow influence how much sediment
(dirt,mud, etc.) is in the water? How will it
influence erosion of the banks?How will all of
this influence what lives in the water? Hint:
warmer water holds less oxygen than colder
Thanks for asking,
You are asking a difficult question!
might be hard to know for sure if global warming
is affecting the Santa Inez River.We would
probably need useful records for the last 50 yrs
or more about something such as the water level at
certain times of the year, or the plants and
animals living in the river, and how many of each
kind were there. We would need records of
rainfall and temperature- those records are
probably available. We might be able to see if
there is some gradual change in water level, but
we would need to be sure that the change wasn't
due to changes in how much water is being taken
from the river to water grape vines or something
like that.Changes in plants and animals and
microorganisms in the river would be even harder
to compare to global warming, because lots of
plants and animals might change because of changes
in the numbers of people and plants and animals
that live and grow beside the river and use the
water or put fertilizer on crops or do other
things to change the river.
Yes - although it is extremely difficult.
People who study climate are still divided
as to how much global warming is happening,
because it is difficult to measure, and there are
still some who don't think global warming is
happening at all. The problem essentially is this:
the year-to-year fluctuations in the world's
climate dwarf the effects of global warming over a
similar timescale. It takes decades to really be
sure of global warming, and even then, the
absolute changes are small. Last, climate is
complex: as *most* of the Earth warms, some of it
cools, and we aren't really able to predict well
where the warming and where the cooling will occur.
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