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Earth’s Lakes are Heating Up, Which is Bad News for Our Water Supply

You’ve likely already heard about our planet’s oceans warming up, but what about the lakes?

Well, those are heating up as well, according to UPI. A new study published in Geophysical Research Letters has found that the world’s lakes are increasing in temperature by an average rate of 0.61 degrees Fahrenheit each decade. This outpaces the ocean and atmosphere temperatures.

earth, global warming, science, environmentResearchers looked at temperature data stemming from 235 lakes, which make up more than half of Earth’s freshwater supply. In the event that the warming trend continues, researchers believe oxygen-eating algae blooms will increase by 20 percent over the next 100 years. Furthermore blooms that emit fish-killing toxins will grow by five percent.

“These results suggest that large changes in our lakes are not only unavoidable, but are probably already happening,” said Lead Author Catherine O’Reilly, associate professor of geology at Illinois State University, Normal.

However, a number of ecosystems will also be threatened over the coming years as a result of lake warming. The temperature of lakes is essential for the health of ecosystems and the creatures that live in them.

“Society depends on surface water for the vast majority of human uses,” said Co-Author Stephanie Hampton, director of Washington State University’s Center for Environmental Research, Education and Outreach. “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.”

But let’s get back to the part about clean, fresh water, which some countries are already struggling with in parts of the world.

“Increased evaporation associated with warming can lead to declines in lake water level, with implications for water security, substantial economic consequences, and in some cases, complete ecosystem loss,”  the authors concluded. “The widespread warming reported here suggests that large changes in Earth’s freshwater resources and their processes are not only imminent but already under way.”

The researchers were also able to identify certain differences between bodies of water. For example, ice-free lakes appear to me warming more slowly than those that have ice. Additionally, the scientists state that it cannot be assumed that all rates as warming similarly due to outlying factors.

However, this doesn’t take away from the point that our freshwater supply is being threatened. Maybe now is a good time to start thinking twice about leaving the faucet running while brushing your teeth.


Sources

Hays, Brooks. “Study: Planet’s lakes warming faster than ocean, atmosphere.” UPI. December 17, 2015.

O’Reilly, Catherine. “Rapid and highly variable warming of lake surface waters around the globe.” American Geophysical Union. December 16, 2015.

Sorensen, Eric. “Study: Climate change rapidly warming world’s lakes.” WSU. December 16, 2015.