The world’s lakes are heating up faster than the atmosphere, which will affect humans across the globe, according the first study of its kind.
In the study – published December 16 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters and funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – researchers looked at over half of Earth’s lakes (or 235 lakes).
Based on ground and satellite temperature data collected over a 25-year period, the researchers found that every ten years, Earth’s lakes were warming about 0.61 degrees Fahrenheit. Even though 0.61 degrees Fahrenheit each decade may not look like much, it is still more than what the oceans and atmosphere are experiencing. Researchers also say that the temperature rise could do serious damage in the long-run.
Catherine O’Reilly, lead author of the study and an associate professor of geology at Illinois State University, said that large changes in Earth’s lakes are unavoidable at this point.
Over the next century, algae blooms are expected to increase by 20 percent due to hotter lakes. According to scientists, toxic algae blooms will also increase by 5 percent. Algae blooms exhaust the oxygen supply in the water, making it difficult for animals and other plants to live in lakes. Methane emissions from lakes will also increase by four percent. (note: over a 100-year period, methane’s impact on climate change is 25 times more powerful than that of CO2)
According to Stephanie Hampton, co-author of the study and a director of Washington State University’s Center for Environmental Research, Education and Outreach in Pullman, surface water is important for humans not only for drinking, but also for energy production, manufacturing, irrigation of crops, and so on.
The rate at which lakes are heating up depends on local and climate factors, rather than lake location, the authors of the study sated. Lakes in warmer climates are heating up fast because they are more exposed to the sun’s rays, and lakes in cooler climates are also getting warm faster because their ice cover melts earlier in the year.
For instance the Great Lakes in the United States, also known as the Laurentian Great Lakes, are also experiencing warming due to earlier ice melt.
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