China’s Three Gorges Dam is famed for its size ” and its reservoir may be large enough to change regional weather patterns. The large body of water has altered temperatures, wind patterns and rainfall rates in both the local Three Gorges Dam region and in the upstream Sichuan Basin, a new study reports ” changes that could affect the dam’s ultimate ability to control floods.
At 663 kilometers long and with a capacity of nearly 40 billion cubic meters of water, the Three Gorges Dam’s reservoir is one of the largest in the world (see Geotimes, August 2006). In June 2003, officials raised the reservoir’s water level from 66 to 135 meters ” roughly three-fourths of the full depth (175 meters) that it will reach once the project is completed in 2009.
That volume of water has a significant effect on the climate, scientists say, creating a potential evaporating surface that can cool the lower atmosphere and thereby alter both wind and precipitation patterns. [Full text]
An abstract of the study by Lawrence Berkeley Lab is available to download here.