Researchers Philipp Schneider and Simon Hook of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., used satellite data to measure the surface temperatures of 167 large lakes worldwide.
They reported an average warming rate of 0.45 degrees Celsius (0.81 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade, with some lakes warming as much as 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade. The warming trend was global, and the greatest increases were in the mid- to high-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.
"Our analysis provides a new, independent data source for assessing the impact of climate change over land around the world," said Schneider, lead author of the study published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. "The results have implications for lake ecosystems, which can be adversely affected by even small water temperature changes."
Small changes in water temperature can result in algal blooms that can make a lake toxic to fish or result in the introduction of non-native species that change the lake's natural ecosystem.
Scientists have long used air temperature measurements taken near Earth's surface to compute warming trends. More recently, scientists have supplemented these measurements with thermal infrared satellite data that can be used to provide a comprehensive, accurate view of how surface temperatures are changing worldwide.