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Alaska's Flood of Freshwater 

Alaska landscape

Drop In The Bucket

How can California can solve its drought problem? Alaska has more freshwater than it knows what to do with.

Combining satellite technology and land-based monitoring equipment, scientists measured freshwater runoff from the southern Alaska coast into the Gulf of Alaska for six years, from 2003 to 2009. A combination of rain, snow and melting glaciers produced an average of almost 200 cubic miles of water per year. In this case, glaciers contributed about 13.5 cubic miles of water a year to the total.

If you collected all the water running off that one region, it would make a river four times larger than the Yukon River, which crosses Alaska and Canada. It would be about half the size of the Mississippi River which drains water from an area six times as large and covers 31 states.

Saline Away

That's negatively impacting the Gulf of Alaska. When freshwater enters a salt water ocean it can have an impact on temperature and salinity which in turn affects all kinds of marine organisms. The freshwater can even influence ocean currents and sea level.

The movements of ocean currents affect the climate, too, and not just near Alaska. Changes in ocean circulation could eventually change the climate of the entire West Coast, making California warmer and possibly even dryer than it is today.

Read More:

"Spatial and Temporal Variability of Freshwater Discharge into the Gulf of Alaska" (Journal of Geophysical Research)

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