Colorado River May Not Reach the Sea

Stephanie Pappas
Published: May 6, 2014

NASA Photo

An experimental pulse of water moves through the Colorado River in northern Mexico in April 2014.

A release of water down the Colorado River may not reach the sea, as hoped. But it is visible from space.

new satellite image from Landsat 8 captured a view of the Colorado on April 16. The river is typically dry by the time it gets to this spot in northern Mexico, its flow diverted to feed thirsty farms both in that country and in the United States. The Colorado River has only rarely reached the sea since 1960.

This spring, however, both countries agreed to release more water than usual from the Colorado's dams in an effort to restore parched ecosystems, especially the Colorado Delta. This delta was a once-lush connection between the river and the Gulf of California. Before damming of the river began in the 1930s, some 4.9 trillion gallons (18.5 trillion liters) of water moved through the delta each year.

(PHOTOS: The Most Stunning Railway in the World Will Mesmerize You)

The loss of that water — and the annual floods that once fed riverbank and delta ecosystems — has desiccated vegetation and left migratory bird populations high and dry. In 2012, the United States and Mexico signed a water treaty which included a provision to send 34 billion gallons (130 billion liters) of water downstream to mimic one of these floods. The pulse is an historical event, as it is designed solely for the benefit of the environment.

This image, released by NASA's Earth Observatory, shows that pulse. For comparison, Earth Observatory also released a satellite image from April 29, 2013, before the pulse flow. Dry banks surrounded by green, irrigated farms are seen in both views.

Sand bars and shrubby riverbed have slowed the pulse of water, scientists have told the media, so it's not clear that the Colorado will reconnect with the sea. Nevertheless, conservation groups are working to plant trees and seed wetlands, an effort made possible by the injection of water into the ecosystem, according to Earth Observatory.

MORE: Landscapes of Drought

Drought-scarred ground. (Thinkstock/Jupiterimages/Getty Images)

Copyright 2014 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Ad Blocker Enabled

Featured Blogs

Darby Makes the Closest Pass to Honolulu by a Tropical Storm in Recorded History

By Dr. Jeff Masters
July 25, 2016

The closest approach on record by a tropical storm to the island of Oahu resulted in torrential rains in excess of ten inches there as Tropical Storm Darby passed just 40 miles to the south and west of Honolulu, Oahu on Sunday with sustained winds of 40 mph. No other named storm on record has passed that close to Honolulu or Oahu since accurate records began in 1949.

Hottest Reliably Measured Air Temperatures on Earth

By Christopher C. Burt
July 22, 2016

As Jeff Masters mentioned in his recent blog, a temperature of 54.0°C (129.2°F) was observed at Mitribah, Kuwait on July 21st. According to the Kuwait Meteorological Department this was the hottest temperature ever measured in the country (a reading of 54.4°C/129.9°F observed at the same site on July 16, 2010 has been disallowed as a result of a faulty sensor). The 54.0°C reading also is a new record for Asia and ties a similar reading at Death Valley (on June 30, 2013) as the hottest reliably measured temperature on Earth. The key word here is ‘reliably’. Many hotter temperatures have been reported from around the world in years past. However, all of these have credibility issues. In that vein I am going to revisit a blog I first posted on WU in October 2010 listing all the various claims to temperature readings at or above 54°C (129.2°F). In the years since I made that post I’ve learned more about some of these claims and have thus updated my entries and ‘validity’ scores as a result.

An extraordinary meteorological event; was one of its results a 1000-year flood?

By Stu Ostro
October 5, 2015

The confluence of meteorological ingredients the first weekend in October 2015 resulted in an extraordinary weather event with severe impacts. Was one of them a 1000-year flood?

Why the Arrest of a Science-Loving 14-year-old Matters

By Shaun Tanner
September 16, 2015

By now, many of you have heard or read about the arrest of Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old high school student from Irving, Texas. Ahmed was arrested because school officials called the police after he showed one of his teachers his homemade clock. Mistaken for a bomb, Ahmed was taken into custody, interrogated, shamed, suspended (still on suspension today, Wednesday), and reprimanded. All of this after it has been found that the "device" he brought to school was indeed, a homemade clock.