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Sub-Arctic Lakes Shrinking Due to Climate Change December 6, 2013
Aerial view of drying up sub-Arctic lakes in Canada.
Lakes drying up in Wapusk National Park, near Churchill, Manitoba.
A trend toward drier summers and less snowy winters in sub-Arctic Canada is leading to an unprecedented drying up of the region’s expansive network of lakes, according to a new study.

In a report published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, researchers from four universities found that the shift in climate and the shrinking of the lakes that followed has not happened for at least the past 200 years.

Some lakes first began showing signs of losing water in 2010, but observers say it became far more pronounced during this past summer.

Researchers made the discovery after studying 70 lakes near Old Crow, Yukon, and Churchill, Manitoba. Most of the lakes there are less than 3 feet deep.

“With this type of lake, precipitation in the form of snow represents 30 to 50 percent of the annual water supply,” explained lead author, Frédéric Bouchard, from Université Laval's Department of Geography and Canada’s Center for Northern Studies.

Average winter precipitation from 2010 to 2012 dropped by almost 3 inches compared to the 1971-2000 average.

“It’s difficult to predict all the repercussions of this habitat loss,” Bouchard concludes, “but it’s certain that the ecological consequences will be significant.”

Photo: Hilary White