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Study finds snowfall crucial for river water flow

June 05, 2014
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Scientists at the University of Bristol in southwest England have warned that a reduction in snowfall due to warmer climate would have a negative effect on the total amount of water flowing through rivers in areas that depend on snow as a major water source.

Researchers examined historical data affecting hundreds of U.S. river basins, looking specifically at the relation between snow and the amount of water in them. While there have been other studies into that link, they mostly focused on the effect of snowfall on water during a specific period of the year. For the first time, scientists have been able to establish a connection between snow and the amount of water flowing throughout the year, the researchers said.

Typically, it is very hard to assess how exactly water flow in rivers is accumulated because measuring it is nearly impossible. But researchers at the University of Bristol found that snow plays a significant role, by evaluating data gathered at 420 catchments located throughout the United States.

Roughly one-sixth of the global population relies on water coming from melting snow, the university said. If temperatures go up and snowfall is reduced, the consequences for ecosystems and for the public could be "substantial," authors of the study commented. They recommend that further studies into the effect of snow turning into rain on water flow are carried out.

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