Climate Change: Rising Temperatures May Impact Groundwater Quality


As the world’s largest unfrozen freshwater resource, groundwater is crucial for life on Earth. 

As the world’s largest unfrozen freshwater resource, groundwater is crucial for life on Earth. Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have investigated how global warming is affecting groundwater temperatures and what that means for humanity and the environment. Their study indicates that by 2100, more than 75 million people are likely to be living in regions where the groundwater temperature exceeds the highest threshold set for drinking water by any country. Their results have been published in Nature Geoscience. (DOI: 10.1038/s41561-024-01453-x)

Earth’s climate system is heating up due to the atmosphere’s increased concentration of greenhouse gases, which limits the amount of heat that can be radiated away. The oceans absorb a substantial fraction of this heat, but soil and groundwater also act as heat sinks. However, little is known thus far about the effects Earth’s surface warming has on groundwater over space and time. “To close this gap, we have simulated the projected changes in global groundwater temperatures through 2100,” said Dr. Susanne Benz from the Institute of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing at KIT, which prepared the study in cooperation with Dr. Kathrin Menberg and Professor Philipp Blum from the Institute of Applied Geosciences at KIT. “We can provide maps showing global groundwater temperatures at various depths beneath Earth’s surface. The maps show that the world’s highest groundwater warming rates can be expected at locations with a shallow groundwater table and/or high atmospheric warming.”

The researchers based their projections on the SSP 2–4.5 and SSP 5–8.5 climate scenarios. These scenarios reflect different socioeconomic development pathways and different trends in the concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gases in the future. SSP 2–4.5 is in the middle range of possible future greenhouse gas concentration trends; SSP 5–8.5 is at the upper extreme.

Read more at Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT)

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