Thursday, August 20, 2009

South America

"For the first time, we can observe water use on land with no additional ground-based data collection," Famiglietti said. "This is critical because in many developing countries, where hydrological data are both sparse and hard to access, space-based methods provide perhaps the only opportunity to assess changes in freshwater availability across large regions."

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Other efforts to stem the declines of migratory bird populations have focused on threats to wintering habitats in Central and South America and threats to breeding grounds. But many urban areas or open fields aren't suitable for migrating birds because they are vulnerable to predators in these open habitats. That makes the small woodlots important refuges, according to the study.

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"If it isn't being subducted down with the plates," Schultz said, "is it primordial, down there for four billion years? Or did it come down as the plates slowly subduct, suggesting that the planet may have been much wetter a long time ago? These are fascinating questions for which we don't yet have answers."



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Water Resources

Groundwater mining – that is when withdrawals exceed replenishment rates – is a rapidly growing problem in many of the world's large aquifers," Famiglietti said. "Since groundwater provides nearly 80 percent of the water required for irrigated agriculture, diminishing groundwater reserves pose a serious threat to global food security."John Dunning, an associate professor of forestry and natural resources, found that migrating birds are just as likely to stop in small woodlots in the middle of an agricultural field for the night as long as there is adequate protection and food. Dunning said the finding suggests that conservation efforts should extend to smaller forested lands to help stabilize declining migratory bird populations.

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Data provided by India's Ministry of Water Resources had suggested that groundwater use across the nation was exceeding natural replenishment, but the regional rate of depletion had been unknown.

In the new study, the hydrologists analyzed six years of monthly data for northern India from twin satellites called GRACE – NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment – to produce a chronology of underground water storage changes.

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Texas at Austin

Many earth scientists thought that tectonic plates are not likely to carry much, if any, water deep into the Earth's mantle," said Adam Schultz, a geologist at OSU and a co-author of the Nature paper. "Our model, however, clearly shows a close association between subduction zones and high conductivity. The simplest explanation is water."If measures are not soon taken to ensure sustainable groundwater usage, consequences for the 114 million residents of the region may include a collapse of agricultural output, severe shortages of potable water, conflict and suffering," said Rodell, lead author of the study and former doctoral student of Famiglietti's at the University of Texas at Austin.

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The study provides new insights into the fundamental ways in which our planet works, Schultz says. Despite advances in technology, scientists are still unsure how much water lies beneath the ocean floor--and how much of it makes its way into the mantle.



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NASA hydrologists

The researchers created the first global three-dimensional map of electrical conductivity in the mantle. Results of their study are published this week in the journal Nature.Using satellite data, UC Irvine and NASA hydrologists have found that groundwater beneath northern India has been receding by as much as 1 foot per year over the past decade – and they believe human consumption is almost entirely to blame.

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The areas of high conductivity coincide with subduction zones--places where tectonic plates are being subducted beneath the Earth's crust, say the Oregon State University (OSU) scientists who performed the research. They used electromagnetic induction sounding of the Earth's mantle in the study. The method is very sensitive to interconnecting pockets of fluid in


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