New Study Shows Earth’s Rivers Cover 44% More Land than Scientists’ Previous Estimation

According to a new study published on June 28 in the journal Science, all the streams and the rivers on Earth cover 44% more ground than the previous estimations given by scientists. If we gather all the streams and rivers in the world into one place, they could easily surpass the size of U.S. state of Texas, as they cover almost 300,000 square miles.

Some places have fewer rivers or smaller ones, and that’s because the population is concentrated. Scientists linked the phenomenon with the use of water from rivers for food or other activities.

Scientists Used Images Captured By NASA Satellites

The study followed two stages. The first one was to have researchers analyze thousands of images that NASA satellites captured. Then, they used software to calculate the number of rivers and streams on our planet, also adding their sizes. The second stage had the team of scientists check to see the accuracy of the software detecting rivers and not roads.

Allen and Tamlin Pavelsky (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) used the software to create a map called The Global River Widths from Landsat (GRWL) Database, and found that “interactions between rivers and the atmosphere are likely greater than previously thought.”

The discovery could affect environmental change, because rivers release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, so the more we pollute them, the more they can damage the environment. On this matter, John Downing, limnologist and biogeochemist from the University of Minnesota Duluth, who was not involved in the research, stated in an interview that:

“It was assumed until about 2006 that rivers and lakes were just a pipe transporting carbon to the ocean. But the rivers are leaking gases into the atmosphere.”

The study provided key information and also a useful map that future research can use to predict river flow rates as the seasons change. The map can be used to predict flooding and warn those that live near water. As for climate change, the map can help scientists determine how rivers impact our planet.

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere