Publication Abstracts

Gornitz et al. 1997

Gornitz, V., C. Rosenzweig, and D. Hillel, 1997: Effects of anthropogenic intervention in the land hydrologic cycle on global sea level rise. Glob. Planet. Change, 14, 147-161, doi:10.1016/S0921-8181(96)00008-2.

Recent studies suggest that anthropogenic modification of land hydrology (e.g. through groundwater mining, dam building, irrigation, deforestation, wetlands drainage, and urbanization) could significantly impact sea-level rise, although the magnitude and sign of this effect have been widely debated. This paper attempts a comprehensive overview of the effects of human activities on land hydrology. Estimates are provided for the volumes of water associated with each of the major anthropogenic processes and the corresponding equivalent in sea level.

Groundwater mining and runoff from paved and built-up areas are two major sources of water added to the ocean. In contrast, storage of water behind dams, losses through percolation, and evapotranspiration from irrigated fields withhold water that would otherwise flow to the sea. The net effect of these processes holds back the equivalent of 0.8 ± 0.4 mm/yr from sea-level rise. This is a magnitude comparable to, but in the opposite direction from the currently observed sea-level rise of 1-2 mm/yr. These estimates are still preliminary, awaiting better documentation. Coupling of improved land hydrology models with GCMs will help in analysis of feedbacks, especially the partitioning of water among runoff, infiltration, and evaporation.