November 23rd, 2010
11:08 PM ET

NASA study finds Earth's lakes are warming

Satellite data largely agreed with temperature trends taken from buoys in the Great Lakes, NASA says.

The temperatures of Earth's largest lakes have risen in the past 25 years as a result of climate change, according to a new NASA study.

NASA used satellite data to measure the surface temperatures of 167 lakes worldwide and found an average warming rate of .81 degrees Fahrenheit per decade and in some lakes, as much as 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit per decade, NASA said Tuesday.

The greatest increases were in the mid- to high- latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, in a pattern consistent with changes associated with global warming, said Simon Hook, a scientist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

"The key thing is it’s an independent study that provides a new of piece evidence that warming's taking place; and it's made possible through a comprehensive view that the satellite data provides, by allowing us to look over the entire world, as opposed to a particular region," he said.

"From a scientific point of view, small differences in lake temperatures can have big change in a lake's ecosystem - a new fish species that people don't want, new plants; so from our point of view, what we want to do next is understand what the impact of these changes is going to be on the lake's ecosystem."

The study's results incorporated other techniques to verify the satellite data, such as direct measurements of water temperature, wherever possible, Hook said.

The lakes were chosen for inclusion in the study based on their size - typically at least 193 square miles or larger, so conditions on land would not influence the results. The study used nighttime data from summer months over the past 25 years to avoid interference from cloud cover or ice.

Of the 167 lakes surveyed, researchers were able to use data from 104, with 41 producing results that were "statistically significant," he said. Four lakes showed signs of cooling, but the differences were small enough to render them neutral, Hook said.

The satellite temperature trends largely agreed with trends measured by buoys in the Great Lakes, Earth's largest group of freshwater lakes in terms of total surface area and volume.

"There are ways to verify data independently of the satellite data, and we used those to confirm our findings," he said. "From this particular data set, we can say in the last 25 years, looking at these lakes, there seems to be a significant warming trend."

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Filed under: Climate change • Science • Space • Weather
soundoff (115 Responses)
  1. teepee

    why is everyone quoting Jaws the movie?

    November 24, 2010 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
    • brody

      because they have no life

      November 24, 2010 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  2. joe

    the lakes are warming up... and later they cool off.. its called a 'cycle'

    November 24, 2010 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  3. teepee

    Smile you son of a BAM BOOM!!!

    November 24, 2010 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  4. andragogy

    The earth will be here long after human beings have let their own stupidity destroy them. We'll cook the oceans and ourselves, eat ourselves out of house and home and then start dying off from disease and starvation unless we open our eyes. That's okay... there's this great substance called "soylent green"... Won't happen in my lifetime but I'm not going to be a selfish a*hole and screw over everyones children and grandchildren.

    November 24, 2010 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  5. bailoutsos

    hot, cold,hot,cold,hot,cold. I think I see a pattern.

    November 24, 2010 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  6. MM

    Ever thought that MAYBE it's what's under the water that's warming it up...not what's on top. How about Earth's core warming? If solar cycle 24 is going to be what they say it is, the molten iron core of the Earth will respond to the magnetism of the Sun and warm us up...

    November 24, 2010 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
  7. FletcherGR

    Wow – this is the most inane bunch of comments I have ever seen following a CNN.com story. That's not necessarily bad. At least I saw very little hate. Too busy being silly. Okay – I can live with that.

    November 24, 2010 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  8. kds562

    I'm sure the Repubs will say the lake warming is from too many people urinating in them and not from climate change or maybe it is God's will.

    November 24, 2010 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  9. Robin

    this article should have more information about the implications, no?

    November 24, 2010 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  10. DD

    Jaws was fun. This is The Day After Tomorrow.

    November 24, 2010 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  11. Enrique

    This is kind of funny. 5 years ago it was ... GLOBAL WARMING ... 20 years ago it was ... an early mini ICE AGE ...
    now they don't know,. so they come up with ... CLIMATE CHANGE ... of course the climate is going to change. Today it rains tomorrow will be nice and sunny

    November 24, 2010 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Droopy

      global warming results in an ice age. They changed the term to climate change because people where too stupid to understand that fact.

      November 24, 2010 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  12. Matt Damon

    Lake Michigan is full of Bacteria Feces towards Milwaukee and Chicago.. LONG LIVE CIVILIZATION!!

    November 24, 2010 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  13. ted

    WOW !!!! it's only done that for couple million years

    NASA I really think great of what you do. but come on how much $ went into this study.

    November 24, 2010 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  14. Darla

    If the world wasn't warming wouldn't we still be stuck in the Ice Age still???

    November 24, 2010 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Charlie

      Yes, now if we could only get Al Gore to understand that

      November 25, 2010 at 1:06 am | Report abuse |
  15. chicagoK

    When are we going to learn that the earth is exiting an ice age! The earth have been in a warming cycle for 10000 years! There was a mile of ice on top of Chicago! and the mammoths didn't drive SUVs to melt it. There is some really bad junk science being used to fill the pockets of fraudulent researchers at taxpayer expense. The people are paying for misinformation doubly: both in supporting these fraudsters and buying newspapers that report the misinformation! They the people elect politicians who are dumber than the fraudsters and the media. And pay again!

    November 24, 2010 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
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