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Study: Climate Change Warming World's Lakes At A Rapid Rate

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Climate change just keeps on affecting various parts of the ecosystem. In a new study, researchers found that the world's lakes are warming at rapid rates, derailing the status of freshwater supplies and other human sources for living.

Temperature is crucial to the overall state of water and its properties, and thus affects the health of other ecosystems. Shifting temperatures may cause life forms in a lake to alter drastically and even wane completely.

The current study utilized satellite temperature data and long-term ground information. For 25 years (1985-2009), 235 lakes all over the world were analyzed. The number of lakes monitored in the study represent more than 50 percent of the globe's freshwater sources, making it the largest study of its kind.

The findings of the study showed that lakes are warming by an average of 0.61 degrees Fahrenheit (0.34 degrees Celsius) per decade. Such number is said to be higher than the warming rate of either the atmosphere or the ocean.

Some of the world's most popular lakes exhibited higher temperature increases, exceeding the average rise of 0.61 degrees Fahrenheit. Among the lakes with the most rapid warming rates include Lake Tahoe, the Dead Sea, Lake Washington, the Great Lakes Huron, Michigan, Ontario and Superior.

"These results suggest that large changes in our lakes are not only unavoidable, but are probably already happening," said study lead author Catherine O'Reilly from Illinois State University.

The warming trend of lakes is brought about by a variety of climate factors, the researchers said. For example, ice covering lakes in the north continues to decline, leading to warmer waters. Some other areas are losing cloud covers; hence, exposing water directly to the sun's rays.

"A lake is an integrated story of what's going on in a region, as opposed to an air temperature that can change in a second," said co-author Simon Hook from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

For co-author Stephanie Hampton, the implications of the study is highly critical to communities. "Society depends on surface water for the vast majority of human uses," she said. Lake waters are not solely important for drinking, it is also vital in energy generation, crop irrigation and manufacturing operations.

The researchers presented their findings at a American Geophysical Union meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 16. The study will be published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

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