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Essays on water cycle


The cause of the rise in sea level is guessed to be the melting of glacial ice at a faster rate than it is being replenished. Ice formed during the Ice Age is being given back to the sea in our naturally warmer geological period, and man is making matters worse by pouring so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that more heat is being trapped within it. By burning great quantities of fuel with oxygen from the atmosphere we have raised the content of carbon dioxide by several percent in the period for which there are records. This compound acts to reduce the amount of heat that can be radiated away from the earth, and a slight increase of temperature has in fact been measured. This should melt the glaciers even faster, and might bring the additional problem of less rainfall because of climatic changes.

While the water supply is slowly becoming relatively smaller, there are also periodic shortages of another kind, occasioned by what we call a drought. European records go back almost 2000 years, and record many droughts. So do 1300 years of Chinese records, and records from Egypt for about the same length of time. In the United States we have had droughts for as long as we -- and the native Indians -- can remember. Much of the Southwest was called the Great American Desert on early maps, indicating the possibility of a long dry period in the early days.

There was a drought in the United States in 1894, another in 1929, and in 1949. In 1956, the Washita River in Oklahoma stopped flowing, adding to the drought in that area. Reportedly, this was the first time in history that the river had run dry. There is another drought in parts of the country at present. Unfortunately, there is no definite cycle to such declines in water availability, although many scientists and would-be scientists claim to find them in everything from published records to tree rings, to the actions of various wild animals. We apparently cannot predict droughts, then. And strangely, serious droughts occur in years when the precipitation is only two inches less than the long-range average. Many claim that man is causing droughts by exploding atom bombs. Though such a thing is possible, others have blamed flood conditions on the same cause. Such intermittent shortages make more difficult the job of those who must plan our future water supplies. About the only safe measure seems to be to maintain a constant surplus against the occurrence of such droughts.

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