High waters

One of my grandma’s good friends who lives in an area bordering the Mississippi River has a saying. It goes like this, “I lost so much land to the Mississippi I must own half of Louisiana!”  What she is  saying is that so much of her land bordering the river is washed down the Mississippi that she must own some of Louisiana.  In some parts of the country, this is a serious problem.  When thousands of pounds of dirt are eroded off the river coastline, it poses a serious problem. So what happens when the Mississippi gets angry?

Last year torrential downpours raised the  Mississippi to astounding levels. People where evacuated from their homes, farmers lost thousands of acres of land, and the city of Baton Rouge barely avoided catastrophe. Contrary to how it may appear from my previous paragraph, the Mississippi River  is vital to America.  Fifty cities rely on it every day for water.  It is also immensely important to the shipping industry. So what happens when it dries up?

The Mississippi draws its water from a glacier fed lake named Lake Itasca. So now you probably think so what?  Well here’s what.  In the movie “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore showed a graph that shows that in the next 100 years all of the ice at the north pole could melt. In that ice is glaciers, and do you know what feeds the Mississippi River? A glacier! If all the glaciers melt what will happen to the river?

I think that first the river will have a surge of water and possibly flood. Then it would dry up. This would cripple our country.  Forty cities depend on it for water, so millions will go thirsty.  Also it will be a huge hit to the the shipping industry if we don’t do something.

Because of the negative effects that global warming poses to the Mississippi, we need to look more seriously at global warming. We need to spread the facts and educate people. We need to make stricter laws. The first part of solving a problem is knowing  you have one. I heard a politician on the radio say that he was going to make the hard decisions and say no instead of yes.  Our leaders need to realize that we have a problem and make the hard decision -the right decision. But just like the frog in the water, we are going to need someone or something to come pull us out.  So who is it going be?  Is is going to be our politicians that save us from global warming, or are we going to  have to face the effects of millions of gallons of rushing water?

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5 responses to “High waters”

  1. Alison George says :

    I think you are a little confused about how rivers and glaciers form and are maintained. First, glaciers take many, many years to form and are basically the result of the buildup of snow. Each winter, snow accumulates at the top of mountains. If it does not warm up enough in summer to melt the snow, then the snow will remain and become compacted by pressure, eventually forming a solid sheet of ice. The sheet of ice will “flow’ down the mountain where lower altitudes and higher temperatures will allow that glacier to slowly begin to melt. This meltwater can then enter streams, rivers, and lakes. Unfortunately as our climate is warming, summer temperatures are causing the ice and snow to melt faster than it can accumulate in the winter. This leads to shrinking glaciers.

    Although Lake Itasca feeds into the Mississippi River, it is not the only source of water for the Mississippi. The Mississippi is the watershed for the majority of the central United States, meaning runoff from creeks, streams, and other rivers eventually flow into this river, the 4th largest watershed in the world.
    In addition, even if the glaciers which feed into Lake Itasca were to completely disappear, that does not mean precipitation in those areas would cease. Water and snow would still fall, they just would not accumulate into the form of a glacier. There are many lakes that form from glaciers, yet still exist even after glaciers disappear.

    So although your concern for glaciers and the impact on the environment if they are lost is real, the Mississippi River will not dry up if the glaciers melt completely. I agree with your comments about needing to make some serious changes in our daily lives in order to help solve the problems associated with climate change.

    • brannona0017 says :

      Thank you Ms. George. I feel much better about the Mississippi now. I still think that global warming will have an effect on our rivers.

  2. clarkbeast says :

    Good comment, Alison. I’d add one more geographic clarification . . . Lake Itasca is a glacier-formed lake, not a glacier-FED lake (being in decidedly non-glaciated Minnesota). The lake’s basin was carved by the huge continental ice sheet during the last Ice Age. There are some very small glaciers at the upper edges of the Mississippi’s watershed in Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana, but they would contribute so small a percentage of the river’s flow as to be negligible.

    That said, low water has been a huge concern on the Mississippi this year. I was in Memphis in July and couldn’t believe how little water there was–it was like the sandbars had totally taken over the river. As you point out, Brannon, this is only a year after the lower river experienced record flooding.

    http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20120823/NEWS02/708239925

    http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/08/this-drought-is-so-bad-salt-water-is-flowing-up-the-mississippi-threatening-nolas-water-supply/261688/

    • brannona0017 says :

      Thank you Mr. Meyer. I will be sure to make sure the facts are straight before my next post. Like you I am still worried about the affects global warming will and already have had on the river.

      • clarkbeast says :

        It’s highly unlikely that ANY of us will have all our facts straight when it comes to understanding and writing about a complex topic like this one. But that’s the beauty of blogging . . . we put ourselves out there for a conversation that helps us grow and learn.

        It was a good post and a fine starting point!

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