Agriculture and Farming Technology Updates

Climate change makes lakes less blue

The researchers used 5.14 million satellite images of 85,360 lakes and reservoirs around the world between 2013 and 2020 to determine the most common water colour.


If global warming persists, blue lakes around the world are at risk of turning greenish-brown, according to a new study presenting the world’s first inventory of lake colour. Changes in the colour of lake water can indicate a loss of ecosystem health, according to research published in Geophysical Research Letters.

Elements such as the presence of sediments or living beings, such as algae, influence the colour of a lake, but the study also indicates that the air temperature, precipitation, depth and height of the lake above sea level also have an important role in determining colour.

Blue lakes represent less than a third of the world’s lakes. They tend to be deeper and are found in cold, high-latitude regions with high rainfall and winter ice cover. Greenish-brown lakes, which make up 69% of all lakes. Are more widespread and found in drier regions, continental interiors and along coasts, according to the study.

The researchers used 5.14 million satellite images of 85,360 lakes and reservoirs around the world between 2013 and 2020 to determine the most common watercolour.

“No one has ever studied the colour of lakes on a global scale,” says Xiao Yang, lead author of the study. “There have been previous studies of perhaps 200 lakes around the world. But the scale that we are trying here is much larger in terms of the number of lakes and also the coverage of small lakes. Although we are not studying all of the ones on Earth, we are trying to cover a large and representative sample of what we have,” adds scientist.

Effect of climate change

The colour of a lake can change seasonally. So the authors characterized its colour by evaluating the most frequent hue over seven years. The results can be explored through an interactive map developed by the authors.

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In addition, the new study explored how different degrees of warming could affect the colour of the water if climate change persists. The study finds that climate change may decrease the percentage of blue lakes, many of which are found in the Rocky Mountains, northeastern Canada, northern Europe, and New Zealand.

Previous research has also shown that remote regions of the Arctic have lakes that are “increasingly green,” Yang says.

So far all kinds of studies have been done to understand the general health of lake ecosystems. For the authors of this new research, monitoring the colour of the water is a simple. But viable method to assess water quality. Using satellites to do so, offering a tool to understand how remote lakes are changing with climate.

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