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This photo captures the process of deploying a surface buoy in Lake Superior from the surface of a boat. The 660 pound buoys house instruments that take measurements that help scientists study the effect of global warming on large lakes such as Lake Superior.
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Courtesy of Dr. Jay Austin, Assistant Professor, Large Lakes Observatory, University of Minnesota, Duluth

Rising Temperature in Large Lakes

The Earth's climate is warming. That means the air is warming, the oceans are warming, and the land is warming. Did you know that lakes around the world are warming too?

Scientists study lakes using satellite data and with instruments in or near lakes. Instruments can be kept in buoys like the one shown in the picture on this page. The buoys float on top of the lake water and the instruments measure things like air temperature, water temperature, cloud cover, and wind speed. Researchers access all of these measurements from their computers. And do you know what they've found? The temperatures of large lakes around the world are rising - and fast!

From Siberia to East Africa, North America to South America, lakes are warming. Just some of the concerns with this warming in lakes are:

1. An increase in algal blooms - this is when algae grows too fast in a given lake. Algal blooms can look bad and smell bad. Some are even toxic to fish, animals and humans.

2. An increase in invasive species - these are animals and plants that thrive in warmer and warmer waters, but don't belong there.

3. Disruption in food webs and decrease in fish populations - Warmer waters can mean less nutrients are available for some of the living things at the bottom of the food web. Changing one thing in a food web can affect many other animals and plants.

4. Lowering of lake waters - Low lake levels are a problem for property owners on lakes, the shipping industry, and low lake levels affect wildlife and plant life too.

Global warming is affecting lakes around the world. Millions of people live near lakes and depend on these lakes for drinking water, food, recreation, and making money. The warming of lakes worldwide will affect the lives of many people.

Last modified February 2, 2011 by Jennifer Bergman.

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