The rapid temperature rise could cause widespread damage to lake ecosystems including producing harmful algae and declining freshwater species.
Climate change is rapidly warming up lakes around the world.
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According to the latest research, the temperature of lakes is rising faster than the oceans and the air around them and it could cause widespread damage to lake’s ecosystem and result in major ecological shifts including the outburst of harmful algae, damaging freshwater supplies and declining fish population.
This is the largest study of its kind which examined a total of 235 lakes spanning across six continents and making up more than half of world’s fresh water supplies.
For the study, not only ground measurements were looked at but satellite observations were also utilized to determine the global trend. Over the study’s time period, between 1985 and 2009, only a few lakes cooled whereas others heated up sharply at an average of 0.61 degrees Fahrenheit (0.34 degrees Celsius) per decade. For those lakes that are cooling off, researchers suggest that melting glaciers may be adding freezing water in those nearby lakes.
With this rising temperature, harmful algal blooms are expected to increase rapidly over the next few centuries which will damage fish populations and other species living in freshwater. Human water supplies will also be affected by the rapidly increasing lake temperature as it will influence the properties in water critical for health and environment.
"Society depends on surface water for the vast majority of human uses," said co-author Stephanie Hampton from Washington State University's Center for Environmental Research. "Not just for drinking water, but manufacturing, for energy production, for irrigation of our crops. Protein from freshwater fish is especially important in the developing world."
The higher lake temperature could also break free the tons of carbon and methane stored in lake sediments, which in turn could accelerate global warming.
“Lakes are already massive furnaces for processing terrestrial organic matter” said lake biologist Peter Leavitt. “Warming these regions further is likely to increase their role in combusting carbon to CO2.”
Since this study also involves satellite measurements, it provides a more comprehensive and broad view of lake temperatures around the world and helps reflect the possible devastating impact of it.
“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.” Simon Hook, a research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The lakes which are warming more rapidly are scattered around the globe. One of them is Siberia’s ancient Lake Baikel where warming water is threatening Baikal seals as their pups are born on lake ice.
Lead author Catherine O’Reilly said. “These results suggest that large changes in our lakes are not only unavoidable, but are probably already happening.”
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