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NASA Satellites Show Disturbing Trends in Water Supply



NASA launched a satellite mission in 2002 that has been transmitting data to us over a decade now. The mission is called GRACE, which stands for Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, and it measures the amount of water held underground in aquifers.

Aquifers are underground layers of water-bearing permeable rock from which groundwater can be extracted with water wells. About 30% of all of the world’s freshwater resources are located in aquifers.

Data from NASA’s program was revealed in a recent study, which concluded that 21 of the 37 largest aquifers (57%) are running out too fast to be replenished. Even more concerning: an additional 13 are declining at a rate that puts them in a category NASA calls the “most troubled”.

This is putting us closer to peak water territory.

In the below map, red shades show negative changes in the water supply in the world’s biggest aquifers.

Trends in Groundwater Storage, 2003-2013

NASA Satellite Photos Showing Aquifer Depletion

The biggest water sources exert strong gravitational pulls on the satellites, and NASA can use this data to spot trends in water supply while monitoring the world’s largest sources of groundwater.

The below map shows the type of stress exhibited on each water source. Overstressed aquifers do not experience any replenishment, while variable stress means that an aquifer is in decline but still experiences some sort of replenishment. Lastly, human-dominated stress means that aquifer levels will not increase unless humans help recharge the wells through irrigation or other methods.

Changes in Storage vs. Aquifer Stress

NASA Satellite Photos Showing Aquifer Depletion

Keep in mind that these are all of the world’s best aquifers, and that changes in smaller groundwater sources are not well reflected in the study. In the United States, it is expected that 40 of 50 states have at least one region that will see some kind of a water shortage in the next 10 years.

Domestic water use in the United States

California, which is struck by a historical drought, currently relies on 60% of its water from aquifers. For more information on the water challenges faced in the United States, don’t forget to take a look at America’s Water Crisis.

Source: Circle of Blue, Business Insider

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The Tourist Beaches Predicted to Shrink the Most

Sandy beaches make up over one-third of the world’s coastline, yet nearly half of them could disappear by 2100.



The Tourist Beaches Predicted to Shrink the Most

Sandy beaches comprise more than one-third of the world’s coastline —but nearly half of this could be gone by 2100.

This graphic by uses European Commission data that estimates how shorelines worldwide will change over the next decades.

How this Graphic Works

The source conducted an analysis using European Commission data, estimating global shoreline changes by 2100.

Utilizing this data, they calculated the average decrease or increase (in meters) for the shorelines of the 10 most-reviewed beaches in each country on TripAdvisor.

Subsequently, they identified the top 20 tourist beaches projected to experience the most significant reduction in size. The beach boundaries were delineated using the Google Maps API.

Beaches Shrinking by 2100

According to various research, climate change is the main cause of sea levels rising across the globe. In the 20th century alone, it’s estimated that the mean global sea level rose by 11-16 cm.

Typically, beaches might naturally shift inland in response to higher water levels. However, over the last few decades, beaches, caught between rising seas and structures such as buildings and roads, have found themselves with nowhere to go.

Landmark Beach in Lagos, Nigeria, is expected to be the worst hit by 2100, losing 918.3 m of shoreline due to rising sea levels.

Lagos is already suffering the severe impact of rising seas through increased flooding, water-borne disease, and declining water quality.

Beach Country Shoreline Shrinkage (2100P)
Landmark 🇳🇬 Nigeria918.3m
Mackenzie 🇨🇾 Cyprus660.9m
Spiaggia La Cinta 🇮🇹 Italy 514.2m
Costa do Sol 🇲🇿 Mozambique 453.4m
Kuakata Sea 🇧🇩 Bangladesh361.2m
Kabyar Wa🇲🇲 Myanmar351.7m
Entry of Elegushi🇳🇬 Nigeria 338.0m
Royal Comission Yanbu🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia 336.2m
Simaisma North 🇶🇦 Qatar298.6m
Al Thakeera🇶🇦 Qatar278.9m
Akumal 🇲🇽 Mexico265.9m
Ngapali🇲🇲 Myanmar249.5m
Patenga Sea🇧🇩 Bangladesh245.8m
Morro Branco🇧🇷 Brazil224.6m
St. Brelade's Bay🇯🇪 Jersey213.6m
Cape Henlopen🇺🇸 U.S.204.7m
Veracruz🇵🇦 Panama202.4m
Dado🇮🇱 Israel 201.4m
Clearwater🇺🇸 U.S.193.4m
Blåvand🇩🇰 Denmark183.1m

Playa Akumal in Cancún, Mexico, is the North American tourist beach that is expected to shrink the most (265.9 m). Parts of the Quintana Roo coast, where Akumal is found, are already losing up to 4.9 m a year.

Meanwhile, Clearwater Beach in Longboat Key, Florida, is the American beach that is anticipated to shrink the most (193.4 m). Rising sea levels in Clearwater pose an additional concern since the local aquifers, critical for the water supply of millions, are vulnerable to saltwater intrusion.

What’s Causing Sea Levels to Rise?

Since the 1970s, the world has experienced an average temperature increase of 0.15 to 0.20°C per decade, as indicated by NASA research.

This global warming phenomenon has triggered the melting of polar ice caps, resulting in the loss of approximately 28 trillion tonnes of ice within a little over two decades.

Concurrently, global sea levels have escalated by an average of 34.6 mm during the same period.

In the face of the challenge, solutions such as creating dunes along the backshore of beaches, increasing shoreline setbacks, and planting submerged aquatic vegetation to reduce erosion have been studied to mitigate the impact of rising sea levels.

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