SCIENCE

Lake Tahoe Is Just A Microcosm Of What's Happening To Lakes In The West

  • Osvaldo Nunez , Design & Trend Contributor
  • Jul, 31, 2016, 04:52 PM
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(Photo : Getty Images/Kevin Thrash) Global climate change is attributing to the biggest change in temperature in the biggest alpine lake in North America. According to a report released by UC Davis, scientists said that Lake Tahoe’s average surface temperature last year was the warmest ever recorded.

Global climate change is attributing to the biggest change in temperature in the biggest alpine lake in North America. According to a report released by UC Davis, scientists said that Lake Tahoe's average surface temperature last year was the warmest ever recorded.

The air temperature of the lake is also becoming hotter too. Over the entire winter of 2014-15, the lake's temperature dropped below freezing just 24 days. The latest data in the State of the Lake report shows that the lake's average temperature reached 53.3 degrees Fahrenheit. Overall average water temperatures reach a bit over 43 degrees Fahrenheit.

"That is a huge amount of water," said Geoffrey Schladow of the University of California-Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center. "It takes a lot of energy to raise that a half degree."

Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in America. Its deepest point reaches 1,645 feet, and it is second in depth to Crater Lake in Oregon.

"This year's report is definitely a warning," said Darcie Goodman Collins, executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, an environmental group. "We need to improve our efforts."

Average clarity of the lake also decreased 4.8 feet to 73.1 feet. The lowest average clarity levels for the lake was in 1997 when it was 64.1 feet.

Local rules dedicated to reducing erosion and the quantity of nitrogen and phosphorus in the lake were implemented before. The result was an improved quality of health for the lake. However, the warmer waters are posing a new challenge.

"There's not much we can do to influence global climate change," said Collins. "But we can influence the lake's health."

Schladow said that many lakes across the West are experiencing the same troubles as well. "Largely on account of climate change the lake is warming," Schladow said. "The same factors that are affecting Tahoe are playing out in every lake and every reservoir not just in California but through the entire west."

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