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The state of Colorado has almost two hundred rivers and streams. The biggest rivers are characterized by a drainage basin of approximately 3,900 square miles. These rivers include the Arkansas River, the Canadian River, the Dolores River, the Gunnison River, and Colorado River, among many others. The most important river in the state is the Colorado River. However, the climate researchers indicate that the gradual climate change in the state is a threat to the water basin. Although most of the researches consider the Colorado River, they also indicate that the impact on the larger water body will also be evident. Currently, the surface temperature has increased by 3.5 degrees Celsius and reached 5.6 degrees Celsius, which is higher than the average global temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius per annum. This paper identifies the effects of such climate changes on the Colorado River and the larger water basin in the state of Colorado.
The climate of Colorado is more complex than of other states, which are not situated in the mountainous region. As would be expected in other statutes, the temperatures in Southern Colorado are not higher than in Northern Colorado. Most of the areas in the state have desert lands, high plains, foothills, valleys and mountains, which have a great impact on the climate. Generally, the altitude difference increases the temperatures and amount of precipitation. The high plains are situated mainly in the southeast, east, and northeast parts of Colorado. The northern parts of the state, in turn, have mountains, foothills, and high plains. The mountainous parts of the state are mainly found in the west and northwestern parts. However, desert lands are also found in these later areas. Moreover, the southern and southwestern parts have both desert and mountain features; hence, they create the mixed climate in the state (Vano et al., 2014).
The effects of global warming and other climate changes have dominated the global climate discussions over the years. The state of Colorado has not been exempted from such discussions. As an outcome, diverse researches have been conducted in order to study facts relating to the climate change and its impact on the state. It is reported that some effects have already started manifesting themselves on the social and economical platforms. The climate change is affecting the presence of fish and other living species in the Colorado River, for example. They, in turn, are a source of livelihood for the people in the US and Mexico. Such changes are also affecting the recreation capacity of these territories.
The Climate Change and Its Effects
The researchers in the climate change continue to warn the government and other stakeholders that the climate changes in Colorado will have reduced the Colorado River by 50% by 2050. Although the river’s low end seems to decrease by 6%, this figure may become bigger if the temperatures continue to increase (Battaglin, Hay & Markstrom, 2011). The warmer temperatures are increasing the evaporation rate of the river and other water resources.
In a research on the Colorado River’s upper basin, Ficklin, Stewart, and Maurer (2013) identified that the stream flow would decline by 36% during the spring. They identified -100 to +68% as the overall range. On the other hand, they recorded a median decline of 46% during the summer. Similarly, they identified -100 to 22% as the overall rate. The research further indicates that there are temporal shifts and large snowmelt declines. As indicated earlier, the increasing temperatures boost the average evapotranspiration during the whole year. Additionally, shifting soil moistures of the season add to these increases in the early spring and late winter. The modest warming, in turn, may be associated with the increases or decreases in precipitation. Either way, the continued temperature increase has a higher likelihood of creating the dry climate features. As an outcome, numerous sub-basins are projected to have changed into the arid or semi-arid areas by 2080 (Ficklin, Stewart, & Maurer, 2013).
In the 21st century, many states, including Colorado, experience an increased number of downpours. As a rule, these rains cause an overflow of rivers including the Colorado River. Additionally, the melting snows in the mountainous regions of the state are contributing to the increase of the water level in this region. Consequently, some researchers argue that the water level forecast for some rivers in the region by the mid century are not as pessimistic as indicated. Even if this is true, one should understand that the overflow of rivers caused whether by rain or melting snowcaps is not as advantageous feature as it is usually perceived. There are numerous indigenous species inhabiting the water basin of the state. An increasing water flow because of melting snowcaps or downpours interferes with the acidity of water. Consequently, the survival of these species is significantly affected (Vano et al., 2014).
The temperatures in the Yampa River Basin are increasing just as in water basins of other rivers. The researchers expect that this increase will have similar effects as the Colorado River has been experiencing (Battaglin, Hay, & Markstrom, 2011).The delta of the Colorado Basin is a habitat to more than 300 bird species. Moreover, other migratory birds find refuge in here. Unfortunately, some species of birds have started reducing their population due to the changing state of the mangrove areas and other life-supporting features. The basin is also the home for more than 49 fish species. The researchers in fauna identify the devastating effects on changing the water level.
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Different researches have indicated the differences in the land surface hydrology precipitation. It determines the effects of the temperature and precipitation changes on the ability of land to transport, evaporate, and absorb water. Nevertheless, even with these differences, all researches make one conclusion - today, there is an increase in the temperatures and precipitations, which will lead to negative changes in the state’s geographical features (Battaglin, Hay & Markstrom, 2011). These changes will further lead to certain difficulties in both the economic and social life of the population.