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Indian Ocean Warming leads to change in the Rainfall Pattern and Groundwater Storage in India

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Monsoon Clouds. Wikimedia

Kolkata, Jan 10, 2017:  The changing rainfall pattern, which is linked to the warming of the Indian Ocean, is the key factor driving changes in groundwater storage in India. This is reported by a new study led by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Gandhinagar.

Published in the journal Nature Geoscience in January, the study shows that changing monsoon patterns “which are tied to higher temperatures in the Indian Ocean” are an “even greater driver of change” in groundwater storage than the pumping of groundwater for agriculture.

“Groundwater plays a vital role in food and water security in India. Sustainable use of groundwater resources for irrigation is the key for future food grain production,” said study leader Vimal Mishra, of IIT Gandhinagar. “And with a fast-growing population, managing groundwater sustainability is becoming even more important.

The linkage between monsoon rainfall and groundwater can suggest ways to enhance groundwater recharge in India and especially in the regions where rainfall has been declining, such as the Indo-Gangetic Plain,” he added. Groundwater withdrawals in the country have increased over ten-fold since the 1950s, from 10-20 cubic kms per year in 1950 to 240-260 cubic kms per year in 2009. And satellite measurements have shown major decline in groundwater storage in some parts of the country, particularly in northern India, the study notes.

“This study adds another dimension to the existing water management framework. We need to consider not just the withdrawals, but also the deposits in the system,” said Yoshihide Wada, co-author and the deputy director of the Water programme at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria.

By looking at water levels in wells around the country, the researchers could track groundwater replenishment following the monsoon. In addition, the researchers found that the monsoon precipitation is correlated with Indian Ocean temperature, a finding which could potentially help to improve precipitation forecasts and aid in water resource planning.

“Weather is uncertain by nature, and the impacts of climate change are extremely difficult to predict at a regional level. But our research suggests that we must focus more attention on this side of the equation if we want to sustain manage water resources for the future”, Wada added. (IANS)

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Study: Planting Trees Can Help in Stemming Global Warming

It is a race against time, however, since a warming planet means the area available for tree planting is shrinking

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planting trees, global warming
A forest guard keeps vigil at the flooded Kaziranga National Park, east of Gauhati, northeastern Assam state, India, July 26, 2016. VOA

Scientists say evidence is mounting that trees can have a far-reaching effect in stemming global warming by removing huge amounts of carbon from the atmosphere. A recent study bolsters this idea, and tree-planting advocates say it’s something they’ve known for decades.

The recent European study published in Science magazine July 5 says trees could potentially absorb two-thirds of the carbon that has been added to the atmosphere as a result of human activity since the Industrial Revolution.

The study, headed by researchers at the Crowther Lab at ETH Zurich, a technical university, found that an extra 500 billion trees, covering an area roughly the size of the United States, could remove 200 gigatons of carbon from the air when they reach maturity.

The study’s authors say that combined with reduced greenhouse gas emissions, adding so many extra trees could replenish the world’s shrinking stock by 2050 and provide the most effective climate change solution to date.

The scientists say that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, the goal of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, will require an extra billion hectares of forest, an increase of nearly 20% over existing forest land. It is a race against time, however, since a warming planet means the area available for tree planting is shrinking.

Act locally

There are a few remaining trees in a section of the Angeles National Forest, northeast of Los Angeles, where volunteers are removing invasive species such as mustard and types of thistle, and restoring native plants “… about 40 different species,” said Thierry Rivard of the nonprofit TreePeople.

The newly sown plants are grasses, Rivard said. “Some of them are what you would call shrubs. Some of them are trees — oaks, elderberries.” They had thrived in this area in a balanced ecosystem until recent times, when they were crowded out by other species brought by human activity.

On a recent weekend, dozens of volunteers pulled out invasive plants and carried water buckets through the rolling hills to nurture saplings. The restoration will make the hillsides more resistant to wildfires, since invasive plants dry out in the summer to create conditions for flash fuels. At the heart of the project are trees.

planting trees, global warming
FILE – In the Atlantic Forest in Bahia, fire and deforestation of hill slopes are forbidden by Brazilian law, but law enforcement is ineffective. (Credit: IESB archive). VOA

“Trees have multiple benefits,” said Cindy Montanez, the CEO of TreePeople. “Trees shade humans, the environment, as we see dramatic increases in extreme heat. Trees help retain water in situations where there’s flooding (and) we’re trying to prevent water runoff,” she added.

Reducing deforestation

A major effort to reduce deforestation and expand existing forests is underway around the world, including the Thirty Hills project in Sumatra’s forests, and Trillion Trees, with efforts focused, so far, in parts of South America and Africa .

Both projects were undertaken by the World Wildlife Fund and partner organizations as part of a comprehensive approach that encourages ecologically sound industries. For example, forest-friendly methods of cocoa production in Africa and honey production in Indonesia.

Forest restoration is not without challenges, and researchers must take into account “areas where we have grazing lands, or we have important grasslands, or we need to consider what the land ownership is,” said Christa Anderson, a research fellow with the World Wildlife Fund.

planting trees, global warming
FILE – Mexico’s new climate law promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020, which should make a difference in Mexico City, among the most polluted cities in the world. VOA

Anderson said studies have found that so-called boreal forests in northern latitudes absorb light from the sun and can have a warming effect, and that reforestation works better in some places than others. The research paper in Science says six countries have the potential to restore more than half of the needed trees: Russia, the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil and China.

ALSO READ: US Aims to Deploy Intermediate-Range Missile System in Asia-Pacific

Scores of governments have pledged to help, joining the Bonn Challenge, an effort to restore 150 million hectares of forest by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030. “It’s one of the pieces, and another huge piece is reducing our energy and industry emissions. We really need both things,” Anderson said.

Individuals and local communities can also help, Montanez said. “Take personal responsibility, help plant trees,” she said. “It’s fun, it makes our communities greener, more climate-resilient, more sustainable.” And trees make our planet more livable, she added. (VOA)