Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 24 Issue 04

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Volume 24, No. 4
Pages 143 - 144


BOOK REVIEW • River Discharge to the Coastal Ocean: A Global Synthesis

By Chris Paola  
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There was a time when “blue water” oceanographers didn’t think much about the coastal oceans, let alone the arterial strands of freshwater that supply them with sediment, solutes, organisms, and a variety of other cargo. Fortunately, this phase is behind us, and the publication of this interesting new book by Milliman and Farnsworth on river discharge to the ocean nicely reflects its passing. This book is about rivers, but is written for oceanographers. It focuses not on how rivers work but on what they deliver to the ocean. It provides 164 pages of analysis of how we measure the mass fluxes that rivers deliver to the world ocean, the temporal and spatial variability of delivery rates around the world, and what factors might account for the variation. It is unusual among books today in that it is nearly exclusively devoted to data. The authors take data quality very seriously, which is good, especially in a work that synthesizes data from sources around the world that differ widely in quality. For rivers in wealthy countries, we have long records of consistent quality. For most of the world’s rivers, the data are much more spotty. This variability is a major obstacle in compiling a global database for river-borne fluxes, which for the most part must still be measured on the ground and by human operators. Although some of the data presented in this book are already available online, I don’t know of anything as comprehensive as this book, or that provides the level of synthesis and quality control found here.


Paola, C. 2011. Review of River Discharge to the Coastal Ocean: A Global Synthesis, by J.D. Milliman and K.L. Farnsworth. Oceanography 24(4):143–144, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2011.108.

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