Mississippi River's water levels plunge for second consecutive year due to droughttext_fields
The Mississippi River in the US is facing a dire situation as its water levels continue to plummet for the second consecutive year, primarily driven by exceptional drought conditions in parts of the country.
The critical water shortage has reached a point where unique rock formations along the river are now accessible on foot.
This alarming development has prompted authorities to take measures, including expanding levees in Louisiana to prevent saltwater intrusion into New Orleans' drinking water supply.
A report by CNN highlighted that this drought has struck at a critical juncture, coinciding with the upcoming harvest season. Farmers across the US Midwest are growing increasingly concerned about the decreasing water levels in the river.
According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the US Geological Survey (USGS), an extensive stretch of 400 miles along the river has reached the low-water threshold.
"We've been teetering on drought, extreme drought since last fall," said Colin Wellenkamp, the executive director of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative. "We get a little reprieve, and then it's warm and dry. We really haven't ever totally climbed out of the drought from last fall for the whole river yet," he added.
Both Louisiana and Mississippi experienced their hottest year on record, according to NOAA data. These exceptionally high temperatures have had significant consequences, allowing structures that are typically accessible only by boat to be reached on foot.
As of September 20, the water level at one of the river gauges was reported to be near zero, with no improvement expected in the coming days, as per the CNN report.
A similar situation occurred in October of the previous year when tourists could walk up to Tower Rock, a popular spot in the river. "Previous to last year, it was probably only accessible once or twice in the last decade," noted Steve Schell, a natural history biologist at the Missouri Department of Conservation.
The Mississippi River's declining water levels are part of a broader trend driven by climate change and rising global temperatures.
NASA reported that Earth experienced its hottest summer on record this year, with temperatures in June, July, and August surpassing previous highs by 0.23 degrees Celsius. This increase is 1.2 degrees Celsius warmer than the average summer temperatures observed between 1951 and 1980.
Climate experts attribute this worldwide warming trend to greenhouse gas emissions, which have become a primary driver of climate change. The tropical Pacific Ocean experienced El Niño, a natural climate phenomenon characterised by elevated sea surface temperatures, which can result in various weather patterns, including colder, wetter conditions in the Southwest of the US and drought in western Pacific nations like Australia and Indonesia, according to NASA.