How Artificial Reservoirs Affect Global Sea Level

A new study lead by Chao in Science estimates that nearly 10,800 cubic kilometers of water are stored in artificial reservoirs. That is little over twice the volume of Lake Michigan. The authors estimate this quantity of water reduces global sea levels by -30mm, with an average rate of -0.55mm per year over the last half century.

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

4 Replies to “How Artificial Reservoirs Affect Global Sea Level”

  1. There was a study about 20 years ago in Nature which addressed the problem of rising sea levels. The slow-down by reservoirs was included. A number of possible solutions were mentioned. These included digging below sea level canals into the Dead Sea basin and into Death Valley. Seaside zoning, which is not going to happen, was also discussed. I copied this to a colleague in the US Army Corps of Engineers.

  2. The increased surface area of water might increase evaporation into the water cycle. I wonder if that has any effect?


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