The Lake's famous crystal blue color could be increasingly threatened as water temperatures rise.
Climate change is not just affecting the arctic ice-sheets and its surrounding wildlife. Hundreds of lakes around the world are also rising in temperature and Lake Tahoe, in particular, is suffering.
Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in North America and situated on the border between California and Nevada, is rising in temperature 15 times faster than its average rate, according to a report by UC Davis Tahoe Environment Research Center (TERC).
Geoff Schladow, director of the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center, says the rise in temperature, which has been recorded at 0.3 degrees Fahrenheit in 2015 instead of its usual .018 degree Fahrenheit, is threatening the ability for its ecosystems to maintain their current state.
“The occurrence of rising air temperatures at Lake Tahoe has been known about for many years now and with it the warming of the lake. What is different this year is that we’re seeing more aspects of the lake’s internal physics changing and that is bound to alter the ecology.”
Researchers at the TERC use sensors to monitor physical processes and water quality to study the chemistry, physics and biology of the lake and uses the data to analyze long-term changes – something TERC has been set up to do since the 1970s. It’s these changes that could potentially affect Lake Tahoe’s famous crystal blue color which brings more clarity as different temperatures of water come together deep in the lake during the winter.
However, the warmer water in 2015 didn’t mix at the correct depth which scientists blame on the sudden increase in temperature leading to a 5ft decrease in clarity compared to normal.
The clarity isn’t the only problem. The water levels in the lake also dropped last year by nine inches and was below the natural rim for 364 days although this was partly affected by the continuing warm and dry conditions in 2015.
It is hoped the research carried out by TERC will go towards influencing policy decisions in the lake’s management and ecosystems and, in turn, help efforts with other lakes around the world.