Parched Earth soaks up water, slowing sea level rise: study

February 11, 2016
As glaciers melt due to climate change, the increasingly hot and parched Earth is absorbing some of that water inland, slowing s
As glaciers melt due to climate change, the increasingly hot and parched Earth is absorbing some of that water inland, slowing sea level rise, NASA experts say

As glaciers melt due to climate change, the increasingly hot and parched Earth is absorbing some of that water inland, slowing sea level rise, NASA experts said Thursday.

Satellite measurements over the past decade show for the first time that the Earth's continents have soaked up and stored an extra 3.2 trillion tons of water in soils, lakes and underground aquifers, the experts said in a study in the journal Science.

This has temporarily slowed the rate of by about 20 percent, it said.

"We always assumed that people's increased reliance on groundwater for irrigation and consumption was resulting in a net transfer of water from the land to the ocean," said lead author J.T. Reager of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

"What we didn't realize until now is that over the past decade, changes in the global water cycle more than offset the losses that occurred from groundwater pumping, causing the land to act like a sponge—at least temporarily."

The global water cycle involves the flow of moisture, from the evaporation over the oceans to the fall of precipitation, to runoff and rivers that lead back into the ocean.

Just how much effect on sea level rise this kind of land storage would have has remained unknown until now because there are no land-based instruments that can measure such changes planet-wide.

An artist’s depiction of the NASA GRACE satellites and the Earth's gravity field. Credit: NASA/JPL

The latest data came from a pair of NASA satellites launched in 2002—known as the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE).

Researchers learned that the " gains over land were spread globally, but taken together they equal the volume of Lake Huron, the world's seventh largest lake," said a NASA statement.

Researchers said the findings will help scientists better calculate sea level changes in the years ahead.

Map of trends in water storage over the continents as measured by the GRACE satellites. Credit: J.T. Reager, NASA /JPL

"These results will lead to a refinement of global sea level budgets, such as those presented in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, which acknowledge the importance of climate-driven changes in hydrology, but have been unable to include any reliable estimate of their contribution to changes," said senior author Jay Famiglietti, a professor at the University of California, Irvine.

"But we'll need a much longer data record to fully understand the underlying cause of the patterns and whether they will persist."

Updated ocean mass budget. Credit: J.T. Reager, NASA /JPL

Explore further: Groundwater pumping leads to sea level rise, cancels out effect of dams: study

More information: "A decade of sea level rise slowed by climate-driven hydrology," by J.T. Reager et al. science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi/10.1126/science.aad8386

Related Stories

La Nina caused global sea level drop

October 29, 2012

The 2011 La Niña was so strong that it caused global mean sea level to drop by 5 millimeters (0.2 inches), a new study shows. Since the early 1990s, sea level has been rising by about 3 millimeters (0.1 inches) per year, ...

What goes down must come back up

November 20, 2012

(Phys.org)—For most of the past two decades, the NASA and European Topex/Poseidon, Jason-1 and Jason-2 satellites have tracked the gradual rise of the world's ocean in response to global warming. In August 2011, scientists ...

Ocean warming underestimated, study finds

January 25, 2016

To date, research on the effects of climate change has underestimated the contribution of seawater expansion to sea level rise due to warming of the oceans. A team of researchers at the University of Bonn has now investigated, ...

Recommended for you

18 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

BartV
2.3 / 5 (12) Feb 11, 2016
If there will be such a thing as GW, it will be welcome added rain to many parts of the word. It is not a gloom and doom scenario. Much scarier is if it moves to a GC pattern.

Uncle Ira
3.5 / 5 (12) Feb 11, 2016
Parched earth sucking up water will only slow the sea level rising if the rain is gentle steady and in the right places. Too much rain in a little time only runs off into the rivers. Carrying a bunch of stuff you don't want in the rivers (and oceans) with it. Silt, nitrates and such like stuffs.

Maybe they think all that extra water is going to fall into central Africa or the Australian outback or central California at the time and at the rate when it is really convenient? Hooyeei, somebody needs to get out into the real world and see how complicated all these stuffs are.
Pheory2Science
1.8 / 5 (10) Feb 12, 2016


So now the latest excuse de jure for delay in wishing the Oceans would rise is that Deserts are thirsty?

The quislings were all bleating the Science was Settled!

I'd say cavemen are modeling the projections and tweaking the data.

MR166
2.1 / 5 (7) Feb 12, 2016
You would think that they discovered some sort of new process. Wow water filling the aquifers instead is going directly into the sea, who would have thought that to be even possible!!!!!

MORONS
MR166
2 / 5 (8) Feb 12, 2016
Let's get this straight, if we are pumping more ground water due to irrigation and public water usage the water had to go somewhere. It is not hanging there up in the clouds. Thus, it should be reflected in higher rain falls and increased sea levels. If you had higher rainfalls how can you have a parched earth that is absorbing more water? All of a sudden absorption levels have changed lowering the expected sea level rise. This AGW B.S. gets more and more unbelievable every day.
MR166
2 / 5 (8) Feb 12, 2016
They should publish this junk in People Magazine or Star Newspaper, someplace where it has a chance to be believed!
MR166
2 / 5 (8) Feb 12, 2016
Like most AGW crap the real proof will happen any time now, just wait 10 or 20 years and all of you nonbelievers will see that our false claims are true. In the meantime please keep funding us "Just In Case" or until we can come up with a more credible hoax.
MR166
1.9 / 5 (8) Feb 12, 2016
Per this article and climate science.

1. The ice caps are melting
2. The earth is parched IE no rain
3. Ground water is being used at an increasing rate.
4. Sea levels are not rising as fast as expected.

Now if the earth is "parched" due to no rain how is all this water filling the aquifers?

There is only one reasonable conclusion that will satisfy the needs of the world industrial complex, UFOs are stealing the earth's water and the budgets of NASA and the military have to be drastically increased in order to prevent a shortage in 20 years or so.
obama_socks
1.8 / 5 (10) Feb 12, 2016
I gave all of the preceding commenters a 5 for the simple reason that each of you appear to have thought it over well and have come to the determination that GW or Climate Change is a hoax driven by Liberal/Socialist values for the purpose of robbing the gainfully employed of the world in order to enrich the leaders of third-world governments so that they may be able to continue to persecute and impoverish their citizens with total impunity.
Most humans have a natural tendency to learn from experience that you do not crap where you sleep and eat, and therefore it is imperative to help Mother Nature along with recycling and avoiding the polluting of atmosphere, water, land, and the environment in general. Others have to be taught to discipline themselves by exacting fines against their abuse and misuse of our home planet and its bounty. But the hoaxers, like Al Gore, etc. make a living off those who are too gullible to research what is truly happening.
obama_socks
1.6 / 5 (8) Feb 12, 2016
Somebody on Talk Radio mentioned once that the climate is ALWAYS changing. It is called "WEATHER". However, one of the problems with river water runoff into the oceans is that certain chemicals, even Caffeine from the urine of coffee drinkers wind up in the oceans. Chemical runoff and radioactive water pouring into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima are certainly far worse than melting icebergs. IF land mass becomes inundated and some real estate is lost, the only answer is to build on higher ground. Nature takes up the excess water to form cloud cover, which in turn produces rain. It has been this way for billions of years since before there were oceans. Volcanic action in the early Earth spewed up the gases that formed the clouds which eventually produced the rain. These things have been happening long before there were plants, animals and humans on the Earth and will continue. The thing that should be the prime directive is: DON'T POLLUTE. This is our home. Respect it.
MR166
1.6 / 5 (7) Feb 12, 2016
I would dare to suggest that the poles and glaciers are not melting as fast as predicted but the science is settled.
LifeBasedLogic
Feb 14, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
LifeBasedLogic
Feb 14, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
LifeBasedLogic
Feb 14, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
LifeBasedLogic
Feb 14, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Shootist
1.8 / 5 (5) Feb 14, 2016
global warming . . . is there nothing it cannot do?

"Generally speaking, I'm much more of a conformist, but it happens I have strong views about climate because I think the majority is badly wrong, and you have to make sure if the majority is saying something that they're not talking nonsense." - Freeman Dyson.

When Freeman Dyson says your maths are rubbish, they likely are.
antigoracle
1.8 / 5 (5) Feb 14, 2016
The climate fraud er...excuse me.."science", continues.
HeloMenelo
3 / 5 (2) Feb 20, 2016
Ahhh and so concludes the circus for tonight, Anti science gorillacale lining up his sock puppets to propagate their mindless but hilarious point of views... 5 bananas for each puppet monkey... well done those one out of 5s sure shine bright (cough...as do so the other 1 out of 5's you get every day for your mindless contributions... ;) :D

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.