Polar Bears

Polar Bears

Every winter, an army of ice fishers descends onto frozen lakes. They bait a hook and put it into the freezing water after drilling a hole through the ice. Everyone is hoping for a nice meal. However, within a decade, hundreds of northern lakes might be ice-free all winter. Within the next 70 years, that number might rise to thousands. And if that happens, ice fishers will be among the least affected. 

Threatened Lakes

This widespread loss of lake ice is predicted by research published in Geophysical Research Letters in January. The second recent research investigates how prolonged heatwaves may harm watery places and their inhabitants. According to the findings, when climate change increases, certain lake fish may perish. Toxic algal blooms will become increasingly common. Weather patterns will shift. Even the availability of safe drinking water is likely to be jeopardized. 

“Lake ice does a lot of things — some we know, others we don’t,” says Alessandro Filazzola, a researcher in Toronto, Canada from York University who has collaborated with a water-cycle specialist from Germany. They studied the history of ice cover on northern lakes across the world. 

They sifted through hundreds of data to determine when northern lakes froze and thawed. Some date back to the 1400s, while Shinto priests in Japan documented some. In total, the scientists looked at 1.35 million lakes. They inputted their data into a computer, coupled with local air temperatures from the same years as the lake records. 

Where is the Ice Going?

The computer discovered a troubling trend relating rising winter temperatures to melting ice on significant lakes sooner than usual. 

They went to climate computer models to see what temperatures the models predicted for the lakes they investigated in the future decades. The researchers sought to know when it would be too hot for them to freeze. 

According to the statistics, 179 lakes will lose their ice cover permanently during the next ten years. Some of the world’s biggest and deepest lakes are among the most endangered. 

Lake ice acts like a protective cocoon, shielding the water from the sun and wind. This reduces evaporation for several months of the year. By starting the season with colder water, winter ice also helps to regulate summer lake temperatures. The situation deteriorates more in the summer. The rate of evaporation is increasing. This has the potential to limit the amount of freshwater accessible for drinking. When lakes warm too quickly, entire ecosystems are stressed. 

Many animals, both at sea and on land, adapt to warmer habitats by migrating to colder ones, according to R. listen Woolway. European Space Agency’s Didcot, England, headquarters. He observes that “the sole shelter in lakes is to travel to deeper, cooler waters. However, deeper seas are frequently depleted of oxygen.” He is concerned that lakes would soon get so warm that “there will be nowhere for the fish to go.”