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The Earth's Lakes Are Warming at a Disturbing Rate

Many are growing hotter quicker than the oceans and atmosphere.
Seals in Russia's Lake Baikal are one of many species likely to be affected by warming lake waters.
Seals in Russia's Lake Baikal are one of many species likely to be affected by warming lake waters.S. Gabdurakhamanov

You hear a lot about the problems posed by warming oceans: sea-level rise, habitat disruption, globe-spanning die-offs of coral. What you hear less of is how climate change is affecting the world’s lakes, though new research suggests we should start planning for this problem yesterday.

Using satellite and ground data, researchers at NASA and elsewhere probed more than half of the planet’s bodies of fresh water (235 lakes total). What they found was alarming: Lakes are heating up an average of 0.61 degrees Fahrenheit every decade, which is faster than the warming rates of the oceans and atmosphere. At higher latitudes the warming is even more pronounced at 1.3 degrees a decade, which jibes with the fact that earth’s poles are experiencing a tremendous amount of toastiness.