A research by scientists in Siberia has revealed that Lake Baikal in Russia, which is the world's deepest, oldest and most voluminous lake, has warmed by more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1946, all thanks to global warming.
According to a report in Discovery News, beginning in 1945, Mikhail Kozhov, a professor at Irkutsk State University in Irkutsk, Russia, drew samples from the lake, 1.5 miles offshore, down to 800 feet, about every seven to 10 days year-round.
Later, his daughter took over the sampling, and her daughter, Lyubov Imest'eva, also at Irkutsk State University, continues to this day.
But, the data remained unpublished until Marianne Moore of Wellesley College visited the lake with a class and heard about lake measurements stretching back 60 years.
Eventually, Moore, and colleague Stephanie Hampton of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California, Santa Barbara, began collaborating with Imest'eva to analyze the data and make the findings public.
Among the team's major findings is that the lake, which holds 20 percent of the world's liquid freshwater, has warmed by more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1946, a rate three times faster than the global average air temperature rise.
Lake Baikal is so vast, and the water mixes completely from top to bottom, so Hampton and others expected it would resist warming compared with smaller bodies of water.
"I was surprised by that, frankly, and I know that lakes worldwide are warming," said Hampton. "It's probably related to ice cover," she added.
Lake Baikal is typically topped by ice from about January to May. Over the past century, the number of days of ice cover has decreased by 14 to 19 days.
The team also found that phytoplankton had increased by about threefold, and they tracked a similar tripling of one type of zooplankton in the lake.
Plankton form the base of the food web in the lake, so changes to these populations may affect organisms higher up the food chain, many of which are endemic only to Lake Baikal.
"Even an enormous lake like Baikal looks like it is being affected by climate change," said John Smol of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. "It just shows you how pervasive climate change is going to be," he added.