Thursday July 7, 2022


A white mineral ring as tall as the Statue of Liberty creeps up the steep shoreline of Lake Mead, a Colorado River reservoir just east of Las Vegas on the Nevada-Arizona border. It is the country’s largest reservoir, and it’s draining rapidly.

With much of the United States experiencing above-normal temperatures, below-average rainfall, and a changing climate, it’s vital that water management decision-makers have accurate information.

Led by Huilin Gao, associate professor in the civil and environmental engineering department at Texas A&M University, researchers created the global lake evaporation volume (GLEV) dataset. It leverages modeling and remote sensing to provide the first long-term monthly time series for 1.42 million individual natural lakes and artificial reservoirs worldwide.

The researchers report their findings in Nature Communications.

About 87% of fresh surface water in liquid form is stored in natural and artificial lakes (i.e., reservoirs). While the evaporation volume from these global lakes is substantial, little is known about its spatial distribution and its long-term trend.

From 1985 to 2018, researchers discovered that long-term average lake evaporation volume has increased at a rate of 3.12 cubic kilometers (.77 cubic miles) per year. The trend attributions include an increased evaporation rate of 58%, decreased lake ice coverage of 23% and increased lake surface area of 19%.

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