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

The warming of many lakes globally has been documented by a multi-authored international publication.

This first worldwide synthesis of in situ and satellite-derived lake data showed lake summer surface water temperatures to have increased rapidly (global mean = 0.34°C per decade) between 1985 and 2009. The analyses showed that surface water warming rates are dependent on combinations of climate and local characteristics, rather than just lake location, leading to the counterintuitive result that regional consistency in lake warming is the exception, rather than the rule. The most rapidly warming lakes are widely geographically distributed, and their warming was associated with interactions among different climatic factors—from seasonally ice-covered lakes in areas where temperature and solar radiation have been increasing while cloud cover diminished (0.72°C per decade), to ice-free lakes experiencing increases in air temperature and solar radiation (0.53°C per decade). The observed pervasive and rapid warming signals the urgent need to incorporate climate impacts into vulnerability assessments and adaptation efforts for lakes.

NIWA Contact: 

Piet Verburg

Further Information

O’Reilly, C. M., et al. (2015), Rapid and highly variable warming of lake surface waters around the globe, Geophys. Res. Lett., 42, 10,773–10,781, doi:10.1002/2015GL066235.)

Measuring temperatures from the surface down to the bottom with a temperature profiler on a calm day in the middle of Lake Taupo [Piet Verburg, NIWA]

Research subject: Estuaries