Published today in the AGU journal Geophysical Research Letters, the study is one of the first to quantify how anthropogenic climate change has influenced lake heatwaves – offering a new perspective on just one of the ways lakes are responding to the warming climate.
The researchers found that severe and extreme heatwaves may be three times more likely at 1.5°C of global warming, which is the goal set under the Paris Agreement. Under a 3°C global warming scenario, the most extreme warming scenario, heatwaves could be up to 25 times more likely by the end of the century.The researchers also found that the anthropogenic contribution was also higher in tropical lakes, mirroring other studies that have found lower-latitude regions bear the brunt of climate change impacts.
Iestyn Woolway, lead author of the study and former research fellow at ESA’s Climate Office, commented, “What really stood out was the magnitude of human contribution: Most of the severe lake heatwaves we looked at had a significant anthropogenic imprint. And looking at how these heatwaves will change in the future, the magnitude of change we expect to see in the coming decades was quite striking.”
The new study uses lake surface temperature data from ESA’s Climate Change Initiative Lake projectwhich includes data collected by the European Remote Sensing satellite (ERS-2) and Envisat.