Disappearing Arctic Lakes

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Science  03 Jun 2005:
Vol. 308, Issue 5727, pp. 1429
DOI: 10.1126/science.1108142

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Historical archived satellite images were compared with contemporary satellite data to track ongoing changes in more than 10,000 large lakes in rapidly warming Siberia. A widespread decline in lake abundance and area has occurred since 1973, despite slight precipitation increases to the region. The spatial pattern of lake disappearance suggests (i) that thaw and "breaching" of permafrost is driving the observed losses, by enabling rapid lake draining into the subsurface; and (ii) a conceptual model in which high-latitude warming of permafrost triggers an initial but transitory phase of lake and wetland expansion, followed by their widespread disappearance.

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