Thursday, June 13, 2024
44.0°F

The use and mysteries of water

| April 24, 2023 1:05 AM

Everyone knows that water is essential to life, and approximately 71% of the Earth is covered with this liquid. It’s estimated that Earth has around 326 million trillion gallons of water. However, over 97% of this liquid is undrinkable salt water. The rest of it is freshwater, but around 68% of the planet’s fresh water is locked up in ice and glaciers. According to the USGS, if all the Earth’s water, including the freshwater sources and oceans, were put into a sphere, this “water ball” would be about 860 miles across in diameter.

Our planet’s water is practically everywhere. It’s in the air and we see it in the clouds and liquid form. Most of the water continuously gets recycled from the inner portions of our planet to the oceans, rivers and the atmosphere.

Water is always changing form and being recycled. Believe it or not, there is a small chance that the water you drink may have once been consumed by dinosaurs or other prehistoric creatures. Also, the human body is made of more than 50% water.

The demand for freshwater is increasing across the globe. Data from the National Environmental Education Foundation estimates that “40 states can expect water shortages in some portion of their states in the next 10 years.” Water supplies are decreasing worldwide due to extended droughts, increases in the world’s population and changes in land use and energy generation. The NEFF also states that fresh water is largely used for thermoelectric power, agricultural irrigation, public supplies and other factors. Demand for fresh water across the globe is likely to go up by at least 50% over the next 20 years.

According to TheWorldCounts.com, agriculture uses approximately 70% of the world’s freshwater supplies. Industry takes about 20%, with the rest for domestic use. The top water-consuming agricultural product is chocolate. For example, over 2.2 pounds of chocolate requires approximately 4,500 gallons of water.

With so much water on our planet, especially salt water, scientists have speculated for years where this liquid has come from. One of the main scientific theories suggests that meteors and comets brought water to a young Earth billions of years ago. They theorize that a heavy bombardment of these meteors, which have been proven to contain very small amounts of salt water, deposited the liquid directly to the Earth’s surface. To calculate or estimate the number of meteors to hit our planet and deposited so much water during that time is practically unimaginable.

Another hypothesis was that the Earth’s water was already inside the planet when it formed. It’s quite possible both scenarios occurred at the same time with the arrival of meteors and comets, plus the pre-existence of water within the Earth.

Thanks to the evolution of robotic space travel and highly sensitive telescopes, there is mounting evidence that other planets and moons within our solar system may have liquid water. For example, Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons, could have regions of liquid water below its surface as scientists have observed water plumes that erupted from that moon. Also, Jupiter’s moon, Europa, is believed to possess water below its surface.

According to NASA, new findings from one of our planetary neighbors, Mars, provides strong evidence that “liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.” There is also evidence showing that liquid water exists underneath the ice cap at the planet’s South Pole.

Amazingly, data from NASA’s SOFIA mission in 2020 confirmed that water exists on our moon. Water molecules were discovered to be embedded within or sticking to the grains of lunar dust. It was originally thought that since our moon had no atmosphere, any surface water would evaporate immediately. Most recently, scientists discovered deposits of meteorite impacts, also known as spherules, that contained trapped water stored in glass beads. This was determined by analyzing lunar soil samples returned from China’s Chang’e-5 mission.

NASA’s major telescopes, especially the James Webb Space Telescope launched Dec. 25, 2021, is currently the largest and most powerful space telescope and has helped scientists discover over 5,300 exoplanets and over 4,000 planetary systems light years from our solar system. NASA said late last year that based on the evidence, at least two exoplanets likely have water that makes up a large portion of these planets.

In terms of our local weather, April’s water (precipitation) total will finish about the 1.77-inch normal. However, as we move into May, a high-pressure system is expected to build in across the western U.S. and bring drier and warmer weather patterns to the region. High temperatures will likely climb into the 70s across much of North Idaho by late this week.

However, there will be periods of wet weather next month, but rainfall totals may end up near below-normal levels rather than above average. As I mentioned earlier, sea-surface temperatures in the waters of the south-central Pacific Ocean are warming up and we’re starting to see indications of weather patterns moving toward the drier side across much of the western U.S.

• • •

Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com.