Last year was the fourth year in a row that Sierra Nevada’s Lake Tahoe saw record temperatures. Scientists found that the lake is getting warmer at a 15-time-faster pace than the long-term average.
The air temperature above the lake is also rising. Measurements showed that last winter temperatures sank below freezing point just 24 days, while only 6 percent of precipitation was snow, marking a historic low.
Experts noted that the climbing temperatures will also affect the lake’s famed blue shade since warming waters represent the perfect environment for green algae to thrive.
Geoffrey Schladow of the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center noted that the changes in the lake are happening at an alarming rate. Lake Tahoe is no longer the steadily warming lake and the perfect vacation location many of us know.
The lake, which is the deepest U.S. lake after Oregon’s Crater Lake, could engulf the Empire State Building and still have 200 feet of water left above the building’s spire. About 3 million tourists visit the majestic lake every year.
A spokesperson for the League to Save Lake Tahoe, noted that this year’s temperatures are a warning signs. The group called for improved efforts to save the lake. UC Davis researchers also reported that the lake clarity was 73.1 feet in 2015, which is 4.8 feet lower than a year prior.
The lake’s highest level of clarity was 102 feet in the late 1960s, while the worst level of clarity was reported in the late nineties at about 65 feet. The lake’s clarity is altered by pollution, fertilizers, and erosion.
State and federal lawmakers are now striving to preserve the lake’s clarity. Locals are now being educated on the dangers of nitrogen and phosphorus spills, two chemicals that nourish lake’s algal population and on the risks of pollution from cars and septic tanks. Garden owners were asked to capture rainfall water and prevent it from reaching the lake by using gutters to direct it in their gardens.
Environmentalists noted that these simple efforts improved the lake’s clarity from its late nineties’ levels. Experts explained that the chillier water from melting snow sinks to the bottom of the lake while warmer water from rainfall stays on its surface so debris interferes with its clarity.
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