With NASA’s help, research shows that the Earth’s surface water is larger than we imagined
Unfortunately, the launch of the James Webb telescope has been postponed yet again, but not all the news coming on NASA today is bad.
That’s because thanks to the Landsat satellite of the space agency, a group of researchers found that the coverage of rivers, lakes and streams on our planet is at least 44% higher than previously estimated. The information is brought by the scientific journal Science.
That is, the Earth today has 773 thousand square kilometres filled only by watercourses and lake areas. One positive point of this finding is that studies on global warming may now take accurate data into account as these areas participate in the exchange of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
This is because as pollutants such as fertilizers and sewage are dumped into rivers, they become bad environments for marine life and even human use. But in addition, the rivers begin to release methane gas, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and others.
To come to this discovery, we need to talk about George Allen and Tamlin Pavelsky, hydrologists at the University of North Carolina who, through software built by Pavelski, were able to promote precise readings of images provided by NASA’s Landsat. The program was able to detect 58 million measurements of rivers, streams and lakes, and these were used to calculate the total terrestrial coverage of these.
Of course, they did not blindly trust the program: a group of enthusiastic volunteers with the idea of being part of such a pioneering study was in charge of manually checking parts of the measurements since the software could be confusing waterways with simple roads and highways. However, the checks indicated that the program was doing correct readings.
For Allen and Pavelski, global mapping of river and lake courses is also positive not only for creating the first accurate mapping of the type but also because that data will aid in more accurate meteorological studies. Thus prevention works can be carried out more quickly, for example, in regions very close to these watercourses, which can be monitored, reducing the impact of torrential rains.