Today’s Video of the Day from the European Space Agency features the Great Lakes of North America, including Lake Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario.
According to NASA, the lakes represent the largest surface of freshwater in the world, with a combined area of around 244,000 square kilometers.
The Great Lakes were carved out around 100,000 years ago by a major ice sheet that developed over most of the United States and Canada. When temperatures rose, the meltwater filled the lakes.
The lakes are important for transportation, migration, trade, and fishing. They also serve as a habitat for many diverse aquatic species.
Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area. Lake Michigan is the largest lake that is entirely within one country.
According to a study from York University, a shocking number of lakes in the Northern Hemisphere may soon lose their ice cover for good.
The experts report that at the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions, about 5,700 lakes could permanently lose their ice by the end of this century, and 179 of them will become ice-free within the next decade.
The affected areas include large bays in some of the deepest of the Great Lakes, such as Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. These regions of North America could lose their ice by 2055, unless urgent action is taken to slow global warming.
“We need ice on lakes to curtail and minimize evaporation rates in the winter,” said study lead author Professor Sapna Sharma. “Without ice cover, evaporation rates would increase, and water levels could decline. We would lose freshwater, which we need for drinking and everyday activities. Ice cover is extremely important both ecologically and socio-economically.”
“Ice cover is also important for maintaining the quality of our freshwater. In years where there isn’t ice cover or when the ice melts earlier, there have been observations that water temperatures are warmer in the summer, there are increased rates of primary production, plant growth, as well as an increased presence of algal blooms, some of which may be toxic.”
Video Credit: ESA
By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer