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Lakes Worldwide Rapidly Warming

Posted by feww on December 20, 2015

Climate change rapidly heating up lakes globally

Climate change is rapidly heating up the lakes, threatening freshwater supplies and ecosystems globally, according to a comprehensive study spanning six continents, said a report.

The research, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, was carried out by  more than 60 scientists and was announced at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union.


Ice on Lake Vortsjarv in Estonia. Ice-covered lakes warm faster than those with open water. Credit: T. Noges

“Our knowledge of how lakes are responding to global change has been lacking,” said the program director in the Division of Environmental Biology at the National Science Foundation, which funded the research. “That has made forecasting the future of lakes—and the life and livelihoods they support—very challenging. These newly reported trends are a wake-up call to scientists and citizens, including water resource managers and those who depend on freshwater fisheries.”

Lakes warming faster than oceans or atmosphere

Lakes are warming an average of 0.61 degrees Fahrenheit each decade, which greater than the both the warming rate of oceans and atmosphere.

“Lakes are important because society depends on surface water for the vast majority of human uses—not just for drinking water, but manufacturing, energy production, irrigation and crops,” said paper co-author Stephanie Hampton of Washington State University. “Protein from freshwater fish is especially important in the developing world.”

The team monitored more than 235 lakes for at least 25 years. That’s a fraction of the world’s lakes, but those contain more than half the world’s freshwater supply.

Various climate factors are linked with the warming trend, which is melting the ice in the lakes earlier. Additionally, many areas, receiving less cloud cover, are exposed to more sunlight.

Temperatures in both northern climates and tropical regions are rising faster than the average, researchers said. Northern lakes are warming 1.3ºF, per decade. Tropical lakes are warming 0.95ºF, per decade.

Warm- and cold-water lakes equally important

Warm-water lakes such as the African Great Lakes, home to one quarter of the planet’s freshwater supply and a major source of fish for food, are undergoing  less dramatic temperature increases, “but their waters may have already nearly reached the highest temperatures fish can tolerate,” Hampton said.

Report is posted HERE.

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