Subarctic lakes are drying up at a rate not seen in 200 years

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The decrease in snowfall observed in recent years in Canada's subarctic regions has led to worrisome desiccation of the regions' lakes. This is the conclusion arrived at by researchers from Université Laval, Wilfrid Laurier University, Brock University and the University of Waterloo in a study published this week on the website of the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Researchers came to this conclusion after studying 70 lakes near Old Crow, Yukon, and Churchill, Manitoba. Most of the lakes studied are less than one metre deep. According to the analysis, more than half of those located on relatively flat terrain and surrounded by scrubby vegetation show signs of desiccation. The problem stems chiefly from a decline in meltwater; for instance, from 2010 to 2012 average winter precipitation in Churchill decreased by 76 mm compared to the averages recorded from 1971 to 2000.

The drying of some lakes, which first became visible to the naked eye in 2010, was even more pronounced in summer 2013. "With this type of lake, precipitation in the form of snow represents 30% to 50% of the annual water supply," explained the study's lead author, Frédéric Bouchard, a postdoctoral fellow at Université Laval's Department of Geography and the Centre for Northern Studies.

Written By: Science Codex
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21 COMMENTS

  1. In line with policies of the current ‘Conservative’ Canadian government (policies that should be considered criminal, in my humble opinion), almost nobody in Canada hears about environmental issues in the mainstream Canadian media … and certainly not from our beleaguered publicly funded scientists. After a decade of such treatment, ignorance in Canada has to be reaching dangerous levels for both our environment and our democracy.

    • In reply to #1 by NorthernVoice:

      In line with policies of the current ‘Conservative’ Canadian government (policies that should be considered criminal, in my humble opinion), almost nobody in Canada hears about environmental issues in the mainstream Canadian media … and certainly not from our beleaguered publicly funded scientists…

      Maybe nature its self will remind them. There is more to drying lakes and drying tundra than loss of water!

      http://www.eurekalert.org/pub-releases/2012-02/nsae-pfc021512.php

      At this week’s meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Vancouver, Douglas Woolford of Wilfrid Laurier University will present findings that show how the fire season is becoming longer, and Mike Flannigan of the University of Alberta will highlight the increased risk of peat fires.

      During a forest fire, especially in years of drought, peat can also ignite. When that happens, it produces a smoldering, smoky burn that is difficult to extinguish. Peat can grow several meters deep beneath the ground. In fact, some peat fires burn right through winter, beneath the snow, then pick up again in the spring.

      A warming climate appears to be increasing the risk of peat fires in the North, according to Flannigan. For example, in 2007, Alaska’s Anaktuvuk River region experienced a “tundra fire” fuelled by peat that covered 1,000 square kilometres. Until then, fire had largely been absent from the tundra since the Holocene epoch—12,000 years ago.

      … and the peat-fires increase CO2 levels, global warming, forest fires, and tundra drying!

  2. Glad to see others realizing we live in a dynamic world rather than their perceived delusional and idealized static one. Change is not necessarily bad.
    10,000 years ago much of Canada was under 1,000 m ice sheet.
    While the deep freeze this week is not ideal and temporary, it’s definitely preferable to trying to eke out a living on a huge chunk of ice.

    Northern Voice: How is a reduction in Arctic snowfall and the associated desiccation of lakes even remotely the “current ‘Conservative’ Canadian government”(s) fault? jcw

    • In reply to #4 by kaiserkriss:
      >

      Northern Voice: How is a reduction in Arctic snowfall and the associated desiccation of lakes even remotely the “current ‘Conservative’ Canadian government”(s) fault? jcw

      The current climate changes are the fault of the carbonaceous Luddites who are pushing out on-going CO2 emissions. They may not be responsible for all the past emissions, but they are certainly from the same mould as those who caused these problems. Their present policies will also be responsible for the on-going nature of these warming trends causing future problems.

      • In reply to #5 by Alan4discussion:

        The current climate changes are the fault of the carbonaceous Luddites who are pushing out on-going CO2 emissions.

        Don’t forget about the environuts who are doing everything to stop workable short terms solutions like nuclear power and natural gas.

      • It’s a big leap of faith and oversimplifying hugely complex interactions by ascribing obvious global warming previous to the Industrial Revolution solely onto CO2 (still only a trace gas) and then simply blaming current Carbonaceous luddites for any future (warming) changes. Now if you’d mentioned the release of Methane rather than CO2, you’d make a very valid and significant point. jcw

        In reply to #5 by Alan4discussion:

        In reply to #4 by kaiserkriss:

        Northern Voice: How is a reduction in Arctic snowfall and the associated desiccation of lakes even remotely the “current ‘Conservative’ Canadian government”(s) fault? jcw

        The current climate changes are the fault of the carbonaceous Luddites who are pushing out on-go…

        • In reply to #7 by kaiserkriss:

          It’s a big leap of faith and oversimplifying hugely complex interactions by ascribing obvious global warming previous to the Industrial Revolution solely onto CO2 (still only a trace gas)

          Not at all! The connection between the increased CO2 levels and global temperature increases, is solidly evidenced science. The models showing the climate belts moving towards the poles are also well supported.

          http://old.richarddawkins.net/discussions/642733-why-the-laws-of-physics-make-anthropogenic-climate-change-undeniable

          and then simply blaming current Carbonaceous luddites for any future (warming) changes.

          The carbonaceous Luddites are the primary cause of the continued scale of carbon burning, although secondary feed-backs will increasingly contribute. They are obstructing the remedial actions which are required to replace the obsolete polluting energy systems, with low carbon alternatives.

          Now if you’d mentioned the release of Methane rather than CO2, you’d make a very valid and significant point. jcw

          Methane releases – both naturally cycled and from animals, leakage from gas-fracking, and secondary release because of heating and thawing of ground, has about 10 times greater effect as a greenhouse gas than CO2, but it is rapidly degraded by sunlight in the atmosphere within a few years, so is a lesser problem than CO2 in the longer term. The heating from both of these gasses greatly increases the atmospheric content and the effects of the largest greenhouse gas – H2O.

          Drying lakes, methane releases, and burning tundra, are symptoms and feed-backs arising from these.

          • I appreciate your comments Alan, but don’t misunderstand I’m NOT an anthropological warming denier, however I find the evidence blaming it solely on CO2 emissions weak and hugely oversimplified.

            There are many other factors. While I’m sure there IS a CO2 contribution, CO2 still remains an easy whipping boy and has taken a larger proportion of “blame” for a problem the best science still fails to explain adequately. We (the scientific community) must do a better job of solving the problem as well as explaining the solution to a scientific illiterate world, rather than rely on and half truths in 2 second sound bytes. It just leads to a tremendous loss of of credibility and opens up scepticism. jcw
            In reply to #8 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #7 by kaiserkriss:

            It’s a big leap of faith and oversimplifying hugely complex interactions by ascribing obvious global warming previous to the Industrial Revolution solely onto CO2 (still only a trace gas)

            Not at all! The connection between the increased CO2 levels and global tempera…

          • In reply to #10 by kaiserkriss:

            I appreciate your comments Alan, but don’t misunderstand I’m NOT an anthropological warming denier, however I find the evidence blaming it solely on CO2 emissions weak and hugely oversimplified.

            So, where do you put the industrial CO₂ contribution? 2% or 20% or 98%? All of those are “not solely” but which you pick changes the meaning of the assertion. We are well past seeing the real impacts of the last 50 years of putting gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere each year, and now are just beginning to see the runaway feedback of methane boost to warming. Models are being developed to try to predict the point at which the warming due to methane production from melting permafrost and submarine hydrates is going to overtake CO₂ and make the anthropogenic activity moot. In any case, the evidence that human industrialization got this going is clear. The only questions open are how fast things will change, and what to do about it.

          • In reply to #10 by kaiserkriss:

            I appreciate your comments Alan, but don’t misunderstand I’m NOT an anthropological warming denier, however I find the evidence blaming it solely on CO2 emissions weak and hugely oversimplified.

            This appears to be a self contradiction. The evidence of the increased warming from the greenhouse effect and the annual increase in billions of tons of CO2, – from human industries (beyond underlying natural trends,) is solid science and not at all “weak”!

            Global consumption of coal increased 5.4 percent in 2011, to 3.72 billion tons of oil equivalent, while natural gas use grew 2.2 percent, to 2.91 billion tons of oil equivalent. Both are primary fuels for the world’s electricity market, and because they are often used as substitutes for one other, their trends need to be examined together,

            There are many other factors. While I’m sure there IS a CO2 contribution, CO2 still remains an easy whipping boy and has taken a larger proportion of “blame” for a problem

            There is negligible doubt about increased industrial CO2 being the prime cause of the warming trend. Suggestions otherwise are simply disinformation and doubt-mongering put about by deniers and the corrupt media sponsored by the carbon industries who are following the “tobacco strategy” used to rubbish cancer research.

            How ExxonMobil Uses Big Tobacco’s Tactics to Manufacture Uncertainty on Climate Science

            the best science still fails to explain adequately.

            There is some uncertainty about various time-scales, political decisions, and local details, but no doubts about the root causes which are simple physics.

            97% of scientists in climate related fields and ALL scientific bodies, support man-made CO2 as the the cause of the present rapid global warming.

    • In reply to #4 by kaiserkriss:

      How is a reduction in Arctic snowfall and the associated desiccation of lakes even remotely the “current ‘Conservative’ Canadian government”(s) fault? jcw

      I didn’t say or imply it was their fault… although I think it is safe to summarise their policies when it comes to climate change and the environment as … regressive … in case you haven’t been paying attention to Canadian politics.

  3. Quine and Alan:

    I’m not trying to be obtuse, but could someone explain to me what caused the huge ice sheets in the Northern hemisphere (Laurentide and Weichselian) to melt away so quickly when human (industrial) activity and population, together with the associated CO2 output would have been minute compared to post industrial revolution output.

    Obviously I’m missing something here. jcw

    • In reply to #14 by kaiserkriss:

      Quine and Alan:

      I’m not trying to be obtuse, but could someone explain to me what caused the huge ice sheets in the Northern hemisphere (Laurentide and Weichselian) to melt away so quickly when human (industrial) activity and population, together with the associated CO2 output would have been minute compared to post industrial revolution output.

      Obviously I’m missing something here. jcw

      What you are missing is the simple physics of the greenhouse effect, the quantified additions of CO2 to the atmosphere, the measured concentrations of CO2, NO2 and CH4 in the atmosphere, and the fact that the climatologists took into account the natural Solar 11 and 22 year sun-spot cycles , 21,000 year orbital seasons, 42,000 year axial progressions, and the combined 100,000 year cycle – Milankovitch cycles levels of volcanic activity, and millions of years of climate records from ocean sediment cores and tens of thousands of years from ice cores.

      Northern hemisphere (Laurentide and Weichselian) to melt away so quickly when human (industrial) activity and population, together with the associated CO2 output would have been minute compared to post industrial revolution output.

      You use the term “quickly” in the context of geological time. The present global warming and melting is over decades, not centuries or millennia.

      The last glacial period, popularly known as the Ice Age, was the most recent glacial period within the current ice age occurring during the last years of the Pleistocene, from approximately 110,000 to 12,000 years ago.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ice-core-isotope.png

      There are many complex issues to take into account , but to suggest that the world’s specialist scientists don’t know the basics of their subjects is just denial nonsense!
      The causes of natural changes (though not every individual instance) are well known. Climate graphs have been plotted over tens of thousands or in some cases millions of years.

      97% of climate experts agree humans are causing global warming.- http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-scientific-consensus.htm
      >

      We should also consider official scientific bodies and what they think about climate change. There are no national or major scientific institutions anywhere in the world that dispute the theory of anthropogenic climate change. Not one.

      All the pseudo-controversy comes from the carbon industry disinformation propaganda, and the muppet media fed and sponsored by them.

      • Thanks for your reply Alan, I’m well aware of the information you provided, but it still hasn’t answered my (relatively) simple question.
        The 250 years or so since humans started pumping huge amounts of effluent into the atmosphere is quite insignificant in geologic time, as are the last 10,000 to 100,000 years since the time of the last major ice sheets.

        What caused the dramatic melting of the large ice sheets in the last 12-15,000 years? Don’t forget Doggerland which was quite habitable, disappeared around 6,000 years ago. What “culprits” of the various cycles, and natural phenomena (volcanic outbreaks) contributed how much to global warming causing the melting of the ice sheets in a very short time period?

        Just as an aside, you realize just as sound waves become lower frequency with distance, similarly reliable date relating to anything becomes lower frequency over historical and geologic time.

        I agree, these are extremely complex issues that have to taken into account, and understood and placed into context. Until we do so, simply blaming CO2 (still only a trace gas) as the perceived culprit is disingenuous. Furthermore, appealing to Authority (the experts know what they are doing) and the mischievous carbon luddites falsifying information for their own purposes is not a very scientific argument.

        Within the last 2 years I personally have “caught” several claims made by PhDs in Chemistry and Materials Engineering (not my disciplines) and published in peer review journals no less, to be unverifiable and simply wrong. The mistakes were eventually admitted by the authors, yet the false claims and material is still out in the public domain.. Just saying scientific enquiry is not infallible and one must constantly question arguments from all sides without any agenda not matter the source. jcw

        In reply to #15 by Alan4discussion:

        In reply to #14 by kaiserkriss:

        Quine and Alan:

        I’m not trying to be obtuse, but could someone explain to me what caused the huge ice sheets in the Northern hemisphere (Laurentide and Weichselian) to melt away so quickly when human (industrial) activity and population, together with the associated…

        • In reply to #16 by kaiserkriss:

          Thanks for your reply Alan, I’m well aware of the information you provided, but it still hasn’t answered my (relatively) simple question.

          The graphs provided should show the global temperature variations from natural cycles, with some interference from short-term temperature reductions from volcanic ash clouds and SO2 aerosols, followed by temperature increases from volcanic CO2.

          I agree, these are extremely complex issues that have to taken into account, and understood and placed into context. Until we do so, simply blaming CO2 (still only a trace gas) as the perceived culprit is disingenuous.

          Not in the least. There is no doubt that increased CO2 is the prime culprit.

          I gave you the linked global figures @13.

          These aspects ARE well understood. Greenhouse forcing from solar radiation and CO2 levels are NOT controversial. They are solid science. It is the variables in the time scales, local climate, and seasonal details which are uncertain. This is because of the inherent complexities, the effects of political and commercial decisions, and the imprecise understanding of the trigger-points for feed-back effects which escalate the problems.

          Furthermore, appealing to Authority (the experts know what they are doing)

          Not at all. Peer reviewed science papers are the basis of modern understanding. This is the proper expert authority backed up by measurements, calculations and evidence. The “problem” is the sheer volume of evidence.

          and the mischievous carbon luddites falsifying information for their own purposes is not a very scientific argument.

          That too is well evidenced they have been caught dishonestly trying to rubbish valid science on numerous occasions. The dishonest organisations employed, are also well known for their earlier disreputable work for the tobacco industry.

          Within the last 2 years I personally have “caught” several claims made by PhDs in Chemistry and Materials Engineering (not my disciplines) and published in peer review journals no less, to be unverifiable and simply wrong. The mistakes were eventually admitted by the authors, yet the false claims and material is still out in the public domain.. Just saying scientific enquiry is not infallible and one must constantly question arguments from all sides without any agenda not matter the source.

          The link I gave you cited over 12,000 peer-reviewed papers, AND all the world’s leading scientific bodies! You don’t seriously claim they are ALL wrong because some carbon industry stooges and scientifically illiterate journalists say so?!!

          http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-scientific-consensus.htm
          In the scientific field of climate studies – which is informed by many different disciplines – the consensus is demonstrated by the number of scientists who have stopped arguing about what is causing climate change – and that’s nearly all of them. A survey of 928 peer-reviewed abstracts on the subject ‘global climate change’ published between 1993 and 2003 shows that not a single paper rejected the consensus position that global warming is man caused (Oreskes 2004).

          A follow-up study by the Skeptical Science team of over 12,000 peer-reviewed abstracts on the subjects of ‘global warming’ and ‘global climate change’ published between 1991 and 2011 found that of the papers taking a position on the cause of global warming, over 97% agreed that humans are causing it (Cook 2013). The scientific authors of the papers were also contacted and asked to rate their own papers, and again over 97% whose papers took a position on the cause said humans are causing global warming.

          This is not a case of some questionable individual study. There is multiple cross-checking across different disciplines involved, as well as the review process.

          Just saying scientific enquiry is not infallible and one must constantly question arguments from all sides without any agenda not matter the source.

          In this case one side has scientific answers, the other has largely dishonest propaganda, misleading cherry-picked scraps, gratuitous doubt-mongering, the dishonest “tobacco-strategy”, personal incredulity, and a small minority of “scientists” a majority of whom are mining engineers, mining geologists, or people with no relevant qualifications at all, who make-up sciency sounding nonsense.

          Of the examples deniers have cited in discussions, I have found many of them simply have a load of key factors missing from their supposed calculations. Others have been unable to even to list the inputs needed for the calculations they are claiming are wrong, while some have pointed out “solar cycles” or interglacials, as if climatologists had never heard of them.

          AGW deniers are very like creationists in the tactics and types of pseudo-science they employ to con the public. Indeed – many of the dishonest publicity organisations cater for both groups!

          We know what happens when a load of CO2, SO2, volcanic ash, or dust, goes into the atmosphere. It has happened naturally in the past causing radical climate changes and sea-level changes.

          We also know what high levels of CO2 dissolving in, and acidifying sea-water, does to marine life!

          http://www.igbp.net/publications/summariesforpolicymakers/summariesforpolicymakers/oceanacidificationsummaryforpolicymakers2013.html

          http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/04/ocean-acidification/liittschwager-photography -

          see pictures 2 and 3 in the series.

          Picture 2 – At Castello Aragonese, a volcanic island off Naples, Italy, healthy seafloor looks like this: a lumpy quilt of red sponges, white barnacles, lilac coralline algae, sea urchins, and (near the center of the photograph) one well-camouflaged fish. It’s a tompot blenny.

          Picture 3 – A few hundred yards from the preceding scene, CO₂ bubbling from seafloor vents acidifies the water to levels that might one day prevail all over the oceans. Dull mats of algae replace the colorful diversity—”fair warning,” says biologist Jason Hall-Spencer.

  4. In reply to #16 by kaiserkriss:

    Until we do so, simply blaming CO2 (still only a trace gas) as the perceived culprit is disingenuous.

    I am going to leave your education in Alan’s capable hands, but would like to take a moment to dispel the “only a trace gas” canard. Yes, even at 400 ppm it is a trace gas, but its action is not based on its concentration (proportion) but rather on its absolute amount. Look at it this way, if I put 5 gold coins (each 1 oz) in a glass with 5 oz of water, the gold has a concentration of 50% and a value of something around $6000. Now, if I dump that glass into a 100 gal tank of water, the concentration of gold goes down to about 400 ppm, making it a “trace” component, but what’s in the tank is still worth about $6000.

    Carbon dioxide levels are reported in ppm because it is most straight forward to measure that way, but the warming effect comes from how many individual CO₂ molecules there are blocking IR photons from getting out into deep space. Because the total number of molecules in the atmosphere changes slowly, the ppm value for CO₂ concentration lets you calculate the total atmospheric load. The idea comes across better when the public is told that we are currently dumping over 35 billion metric tons of CO₂ into the atmosphere every year. Those 35 billion metric tons (try to visualize 35 BILLION metric tons as a “trace” amount of anything) block plenty of photons and the calculated warming tracks the global observations.

  5. I have the greatest respect for Richard Dawkins. I also have the greatest respect for Christopher Booker. But I can’t see how RD can have swallowed the false science and false statistics, and the very deliberate lies and manipulation, perpetrated by the IPCC and its cohorts. There is no proven causal link between CO2 and warming, in either direction, and there never has been. By far the strongest link with warming/cooling is sunspot activity. If you doubt this, read Christopher Booker’s superb analysis of the subject, which gives many historical facts. The earth may very well be warming or cooling as it has done constantly in the past, but we’re not causing it and nothing we can do will affect it.

  6. Booker was debunked long ago
    and again
    and again
    and again
    and again
    and again
    and again
    and I could just keep going because he a professional mouthpiece for the disinformation squad.

    P.S. The professional science writer, Potholer54, mentions Booker in this very good video all about how this kind of misinformation gets out into the public. Be sure to watch his other videos where he takes Booker’s pal, ‘Lord’ Monckton, apart, piece by disingenuous piece.

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