Lake Tanganyika warming fast

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 17 May 2010

Africa’s Lake Tanganyika has heated up sharply over the past 90 years and is now warmer than at any time for at least 1,500 years, a scientific paper said on Sunday, adding that fish and wildlife are threatened.

The Lake Tanganyika is an over 10 million year old rift-valley lake in East-Africa and the second deepest lake in the world.

The lake, which straddles the border between Tanzania in East Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is the world’s second largest by volume and its second deepest, the paper says.

Lead scientist on the project Jessica Tierney told Reuters the sharp rise in temperature coincided with rises in human emissions of greenhouse gases seen in the past century, so the study added to evidence that emissions are warming the planet.

The ‘Great Lakes’ such as Tanganyika, Malawi and Kenya’s lake Turkana were formed millions of years ago by the tectonic plate movements that tore Africa’s Great Rift Valley.

Some 10 million people live around Tanganyika and depend upon it for drinking water and food, mostly fish.

Geologists at Rhode Island’s Brown University used carbon dating to measure the age of sediments on the lake floor. They then tested fossilized micro-organisms whose membranes differ at various temperatures to gauge how hot it was at times past.

The results were published in Nature Geoscience on Sunday.

“Lake Tanganyika has experienced unprecedented warming in the last century,” a press release accompanying the paper said. “The warming likely is affecting valuable fish stocks upon which millions of people depend.”

Most climate change studies have focused on the atmosphere, but increasingly scientists are studying the effects on the oceans, seas and lakes, which all absorb a huge amount of heat. Continue reading