Shrinking Canadian Lakes Baffle Scientists

By Sam Gibbs on at

The ice caps are melting -- that's a fact. Less ice means more water. So why is Canada losing its Arctic lakes?

A recent, highly detailed satellite survey covering 1.3 million lakes stretching across Canada found that 1.2 per cent, or 6700 square kilometres, had been lost between 2000 and 2009. This contradicts current logic, which should have seen the lakes maintaining or increasing in size as the climate temperature increases melting surrounding ice. In fact, Canada received higher than average rainfall during the study period, so this shrinkage really has scientists like Stephen Dery from the University of Northern British Columbia baffled:

"You would expect more precipitation to lead to higher lake levels. But here, it doesn't."

A thawing permafrost has been suggested as a possibility, allowing the lake water to soak into the soil, but as yet there is no evidence to suggest that's the case. Another theory is that increasing temperature has caused an increase in the rate of evaporation of the surface water, but how does a lake disappear in a freezing climate like the Arctic? "It's an important finding. We need to find out what's driving it," said Larry Hinzman, director of the International Arctic Research Center. [New Scientist]

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