Climate Change Rapidly Warming World’s Lakes

Thursday, February 4, 2016
Rapid and highly variable warming of lake surface waters around the globe

Rapid and highly variable warming of lake surface waters around the globe

Climate change is rapidly warming lakes around the world, threatening freshwater supplies and ecosystems, according to a new study spanning six continents. More than 60 scientists took part in the research, including NE-CSC-funded investigator Jordan S. Read and NE CSC’s new Principal Investigator, Pete McIntyre.

The study found lakes are warming an average of 0.34 degrees Celsius, or 0.61 degrees Fahrenheit, each decade. That’s greater than the warming rate of either the oceans or the atmosphere, and it can have profound effects, the scientists say. Funding for this study was provided in part by NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the USGS.

Temperature is one of the most fundamental and critical physical properties of water. It controls a host of other properties that include intricate living processes that have evolved within strict boundaries. When the temperature varies widely from the norm, life forms in a lake can change dramatically and even disappear.

“We have observed widespread warming in the world’s lakes, and the northeast US is a lake-rich region where changes to the temperature and quality of our waters have the potential to negatively impact local economies,” said Jordan Reed.  “With funding support from the NE-CSC, we are evaluating the effects of lake and stream warming on fisheries during the contemporary period, and projecting future fish habitats for more than 10,000 lakes. These results will be directly applicable to aquatic management decisions, such as targeted fish stocking.”

Read the study in the Geophysical Research Letters >>

Jordan Reed's Project Page >>

Top Figure: Rapid and highly variable warming of lake surface waters around the globe.
Map of trends in lake summer surface temperatures from 1985 to 2009. Most lakes are warming, and there is large spatial heterogeneity in lake trends. Note that the magnitudes of cooling and warming are not the same.

Geophysical Research Letters
Volume 42, Issue 24, pages 10,773-10,781, 16 DEC 2015 DOI: 10.1002/2015GL066235