US Rivers and Streams Heating Up - Temperatures Rising Annually

river photo

Photo by Dave McLear via Flickr CC

A new study by researchers at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and published in Yale 360 shows that the ocean isn't the only body of water with a temperature on the hike. America's rivers and streams are also experiencing temperature rise, from the Colorado to the Potomac, the Delaware to the Hudson, 40 rivers and streams were tested with half showing significant long-term warming trends. And the biggest warming is happening near urban areas, showing that the urban heat island effect is being felt on a profound level. According to the study, annual mean temperatures at 40 sites nationwide have increased by 0.02 to 0.14 degrees Fahrenheit. The Delaware River near Chester, Pennsylvania showed the fastest temperature.

"Warming waters can impact the basic ecological processes taking place in our nation's rivers and streams," said Dr. Sujay Kaushal of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) and lead author of the study. "Long-term temperature increases can impact aquatic biodiversity, biological productivity, and the cycling of contaminants through the ecosystem."

"We are seeing the largest increases in the most highly urbanized areas which lead us to believe that the one-two punch of development and global warming could have a tremendous impact on stream and river ecosystem health," said Dr. Kaushal.

Urban heat islands occur because the dark rooftops and street pavement, lack of trees and shrubbery, and other elements of a cityscape suck up the heat from the sun all day, and release it slowly at night, raising the average temperatures of an area. Apparently that is having an effect not just on air temperatures, but also on river and stream temperatures. Things like painting roofs white - or better, planting rooftop gardens - help to reduce heat island effect, so it seems that when a building owner installs a garden on their roof, they might just be helping out waterways nearby.

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