Glacial runoff into Gulf of Alaska equivalent to world’s sixth largest river

By on March 30, 2015

Glacial runoff entering the sea. (Credit: Oregon State University)

Oregon State University scientists have been studying the glacier melt trickling in thousands of small streams off the coast into the Gulf of Alaska, and their data suggests that the melt may be far more important than has been previously realized.

According to a press release from Oregon State, the runoff from those thousands of small streams would amount to the sixth largest river in the world if they all flowed together. That much water could affect marine populations, alter salinity and sea temperature, and even global sea levels.

The Oregon State work is one of the first studies to show the amount of water contributed to sea levels in Alaska by glacier melt: some 57 cubic kilometers of water per year added to the 792 cubic kilometers of water produced annually in the area by precipitation.

Data for the glacial melt runoff study was gathered using satellite and ground hydraulic measurements. Additional data were gathered using NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellites. These satellites were capable of gathering several unique types of data including the mass of glaciers.

Top image: Glacial runoff entering the sea. (Credit: Oregon State University)

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