Study finds climate change is drying out lakes faster than previously thought – The Hill


Large lakes receded because of climate change at triple the rate previously thought, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science.

The study analyzed 1,972 of the largest lakes worldwide from 1992 to 2020. The waters analyzed in the study comprise about 95 percent of global lake water. Researchers said earlier analyses of lake water have underestimated the losses because of data gaps and covering too narrow a category of lakes.

Based on a combination of hydrologic models, satellite data and climate data, researchers identified a 53 percent decline in water storage over the study period.

While much of the decline in reservoirs is attributable to sedimentation, or increased sediment deposits in the lake bed, the loss in natural lake storage is because of a combination of climate change, human consumption and increased evaporation.

Climate change or consumption accounted for about between 47 and 65 percent of the losses, while warming comprised about 36 percent.

About a quarter of the global population lives in the basin of a lake that’s drying out, according to the study, which underscores “the necessity of incorporating climate change and sedimentation impacts into sustainable water resources management.”

Adding to the risk, the research suggests a “dry-get-drier” trend in arid regions, but humid regions are also trending drier in terms of water storage. The findings back up research on human-caused impacts on bodies of water, like the Dead Sea and Lake Urmia, and they indicate similar, previously undetected losses for bodies, such as Argentina’s Lake Mar Chiquita and California’s Salton Sea.

The research comes amid ongoing negotiations between the states in the Colorado River Basin on the allocation of water from the river and two of its major reservoirs, Lake Powell and Lake Mead. Despite snowpack gains from an unusually wet winter, the Western U.S. has been blasted by a once-in-a-millennium drought through the 21st century.

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