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  • Mount Fitz Roy and South Ice Cap, Chile.

    Mount Fitz Roy and South Ice Cap, Chile. | Photo: Twitter/ @OctavioAurbina

Published 31 August 2020
Opinion

According to the data, our planet’s surface houses 14,394 glacial lakes that cover about 9,000 square kilometers. From 1990 to 2018, those water bodies increased by 53 % and augmented overall lakes by over 50%.

Glacial lakes increased by about 50% in the last two decades because of the rapid melting of glaciers, according to research from Exeter University.

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"Our findings show how quickly Earth's surface systems are responding to climate change and the global nature of this. Our results help to fill a gap in the science because, until now, it was not known how much water was held in the world's glacial lakes," said professor and climate change analyst Stephan Harrison.

The research team compared over a million quarter of satellite images to evaluate the impact of global warming, glaciers melting, and other climatological phenomena on glacial lakes.

According to the data, our planet's surface houses 14,394 glacial lakes that cover about 9,000 square kilometers. From 1990 to 2018, those water bodies increased by 53 % and augmented overall lakes by over 50%.

Scandinavia, Iceland, and Russia's lakes have the fastest growth, doubling their volume in the considered period. However, the increase is relatively unsubstantial beside global levels because of the smallness of the lakes.  

In contrast, other locations as Patagonia and Alaska registers a minimal lake growth. Because of its vastness, the lakes pose a flood threat for rural and poor communities that provision from them.

"As lakes get bigger, there is more water in them to drain quickly and produce glacial lake outburst floods. These are a real hazard in many valleys connected to retreating glaciers in parts of the Himalayas and Andes, for example," Harrison added.

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