Climate change, sinkholes, human water use—the reasons are many, but the result is the same: Lakes across the world have shrunk or disappeared completely, and in the Smithsonian, Sarah Zielinski tells their stories. Among them:
- It's called the Dead Sea, but it's technically a lake, and it's been around for millennia. Thanks to water diverted to businesses and homes, however, the balance between water entering and evaporating from the lake has been thrown off. Now, it's getting shallower, at a rate of about a meter yearly—though officials are working on the problem.
- Lake Waiau was seen by native Hawaiians as a sacred spot. Just 10 feet deep at its deepest, it started disappearing in 2010, and as of September, it was just a pond, less than a foot deep. The reason for the phenomenon, which US officials call "unprecedented in modern times," isn't known for certain; drought is among the possibilities.
- Florida's Scott Lake was the victim of a 2006 sinkhole; it was gone within two weeks, and it took some 32 tons of wildlife with it. The lake is slowly returning as clay and silt fill the sinkhole, but whether it will be back for good is an open question.
- Last year saw Chile's Lake Cachet 2, in the Andes, disappear in a night. The culprit here was climate change, which has caused the glacial lake's frequent disappearance and return. The Colonia glacier holds Lake Cachet 2 in place; when melting thins the glacier, a tunnel allows the water to escape.
- Lake Chad, which is found in Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria, used to be the sixth-biggest lake in the world. Not anymore: Some 90% of its area is gone, thanks to a combination of familiar reasons—drought, human use, and climate change among them. That's caused a "local lack of water, crop failures, livestock deaths, collapsed fisheries, soil salinity, and increasing poverty throughout the region," the UN says. Images at Discover magazine show the changing lake.
Click for Zielinski's full list