Major Developments Along China's Yangtze River Basin Could Lead to Regional Climate Change

Apr 03, 2001, 01:00 ET from American Meteorological Society

    BOSTON, April 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Major development and construction planned
 for China's Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, especially the Three Gorges Dam, could
 dramatically alter the salt content of the Sea of Japan and thereby change the
 climate in regions near these ocean waters, according to a paper appearing in
 the April 2001 issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.
     Rain and fresh water carried into the oceans by rivers float on top of the
 salty oceanic water, providing a shield which effectively insulates the ocean
 from the atmosphere above.  When the shield is broken, the lack of an
 insulating layer allows heat from the surface of the ocean to move into the
 atmosphere above.  Without the protective shield, the water cooled by the
 atmosphere sinks all the way to the bottom of the ocean cooling the deep
 ocean, which is normally insulated from the atmosphere.
     The construction of the Three Gorges Dam threatens to break the fresh
 water shield by obstructing the flow of river water into the ocean, thereby
 altering the salt distribution in the Sea of Japan or Japan/East Sea.
     "The construction of the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River -- the
 largest dam to be constructed on earth -- will divert some of the fresh
 Yangtze River water, which normally finds its way to the Japan/East Sea, for
 agricultural use," said Doron Nof, researcher at Florida State University
 (FSU) in Tallahassee.  "The lack of fresh and rain water in the Sea of Japan
 could break the protective barrier these waters normally provide.  The
 breakage will most likely cause warming of the atmosphere over Japan."
     At present, the insulating shield of ocean water is broken only in a very
 few locations including the Labrador Sea situated between Greenland and
 Canada, the Norwegian Seas, and the Weddel Sea near Antarctica, which
 constitute less than 1% of the entire area of the world's oceans.  In these
 regions, the atmosphere is warmer than it would have been in the presence of a
 shield, according to Nof.
     Presently, the shield in the semi-enclosed Japan/East Sea is not broken,
 according to Nof.  However, the construction of the Three Gorges Dam on the
 Yangtze River threatens to break it within a few years after construction is
 completed in 2010.  The resulting warming is in addition to the much-discussed
 greenhouse effect and the associated global warming due to CO2 production.
 Hence, in the next decade the Japanese may face not only global warming but
 also regional warming, added Nof.
     Nof used a simple mathematical model that takes into account the existing
 situation, the salinity budget in the Japan/East Sea, the mass budget and the
 heat budget, as well as the dynamical properties of the Japan/East Sea to
 derive his conclusions.
     The paper, entitled "China's Development Could Lead to Bottom Water
 Formation in the Japan/East Sea," is available online at
 http://www.ametsoc.org/ams .  (Click on (1) Journals and Publications, (2) AMS
 Journals, (3) AMS Journals Online, (4) Current Issue, (5) Bulletin of the
 American Meteorological Society, Volume 82, Number 4, 2001).
 
     Founded in 1919, the AMS is the nation's leading professional society for
 scientists in the atmospheric and related sciences.  The Society publishes
 well-respected scientific journals, sponsors scientific conferences, and
 supports public education programs across the country.  Additional information
 is available on the Internet at http://www.ametsoc.org/ams .
 
     The research-oriented FSU department of oceanography offers both doctor of
 philosophy and master of science degrees.  The faculty, who guide students'
 research while conducting their own, offer specialized graduate courses in
 physical, chemical and biological oceanography and more general undergraduate
 courses in oceanography.
 
 

SOURCE American Meteorological Society
    BOSTON, April 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Major development and construction planned
 for China's Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, especially the Three Gorges Dam, could
 dramatically alter the salt content of the Sea of Japan and thereby change the
 climate in regions near these ocean waters, according to a paper appearing in
 the April 2001 issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.
     Rain and fresh water carried into the oceans by rivers float on top of the
 salty oceanic water, providing a shield which effectively insulates the ocean
 from the atmosphere above.  When the shield is broken, the lack of an
 insulating layer allows heat from the surface of the ocean to move into the
 atmosphere above.  Without the protective shield, the water cooled by the
 atmosphere sinks all the way to the bottom of the ocean cooling the deep
 ocean, which is normally insulated from the atmosphere.
     The construction of the Three Gorges Dam threatens to break the fresh
 water shield by obstructing the flow of river water into the ocean, thereby
 altering the salt distribution in the Sea of Japan or Japan/East Sea.
     "The construction of the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River -- the
 largest dam to be constructed on earth -- will divert some of the fresh
 Yangtze River water, which normally finds its way to the Japan/East Sea, for
 agricultural use," said Doron Nof, researcher at Florida State University
 (FSU) in Tallahassee.  "The lack of fresh and rain water in the Sea of Japan
 could break the protective barrier these waters normally provide.  The
 breakage will most likely cause warming of the atmosphere over Japan."
     At present, the insulating shield of ocean water is broken only in a very
 few locations including the Labrador Sea situated between Greenland and
 Canada, the Norwegian Seas, and the Weddel Sea near Antarctica, which
 constitute less than 1% of the entire area of the world's oceans.  In these
 regions, the atmosphere is warmer than it would have been in the presence of a
 shield, according to Nof.
     Presently, the shield in the semi-enclosed Japan/East Sea is not broken,
 according to Nof.  However, the construction of the Three Gorges Dam on the
 Yangtze River threatens to break it within a few years after construction is
 completed in 2010.  The resulting warming is in addition to the much-discussed
 greenhouse effect and the associated global warming due to CO2 production.
 Hence, in the next decade the Japanese may face not only global warming but
 also regional warming, added Nof.
     Nof used a simple mathematical model that takes into account the existing
 situation, the salinity budget in the Japan/East Sea, the mass budget and the
 heat budget, as well as the dynamical properties of the Japan/East Sea to
 derive his conclusions.
     The paper, entitled "China's Development Could Lead to Bottom Water
 Formation in the Japan/East Sea," is available online at
 http://www.ametsoc.org/ams .  (Click on (1) Journals and Publications, (2) AMS
 Journals, (3) AMS Journals Online, (4) Current Issue, (5) Bulletin of the
 American Meteorological Society, Volume 82, Number 4, 2001).
 
     Founded in 1919, the AMS is the nation's leading professional society for
 scientists in the atmospheric and related sciences.  The Society publishes
 well-respected scientific journals, sponsors scientific conferences, and
 supports public education programs across the country.  Additional information
 is available on the Internet at http://www.ametsoc.org/ams .
 
     The research-oriented FSU department of oceanography offers both doctor of
 philosophy and master of science degrees.  The faculty, who guide students'
 research while conducting their own, offer specialized graduate courses in
 physical, chemical and biological oceanography and more general undergraduate
 courses in oceanography.
 
 SOURCE  American Meteorological Society