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Half of Earth’s Largest Lakes Are Losing Water

A recent study published in Science shows that around half of Earth’s largest lakes are losing water. An international team of scientists looked at three decades of satellite observations to measure global lake water storage and attribute drivers of change. Climate change, human consumption, and sedimentation were listed as probable causes of lower lake water levels.

Half of Earth’s Largest Lakes Are Losing Water
  1. The team used close to 250,000 lake-area snapshots captured by satellites between 1992-2020 to survey the area of 1,972 of Earth's biggest lakes.

  2. These 1,972 lakes represented about 96% of natural lake water storage.

  3. The researchers found that 53% of those lakes had lost water, with total losses equivalent to losing 17 Lake Meads, the largest reservoir in the US.

  4. One lake—the world’s largest inland water body, the Caspian Sea—accounted for 49% of the total decline in lake water storage.

  5. On the other hand, 24% of the largest lakes saw “significant” increases in water storage, mainly those near dam-construction hotbeds or underpopulated areas, such as the Inner Tibetan Plateau.

  6. The authors cited the example of Lake Sevan in Armenia that saw increases due to conservation measures.

  7. Despite these successes, the authors expressed concern that perhaps 2 billion people, or a quarter of humanity, lives around a shrinking lake basin.


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