People who've been to Lake Tahoe often go on and on about the lake's remarkably blue hue and clear sparkle, and for good reason. But Tahoe's trademark characteristic could vanish as soon as within the next ten years thanks to everyone's favorite climatological spoilsport, global warming.
A new UC Davis study predicts that global warming will radically alter the circulation of the famously deep Lake Tahoe, which possesses vast stores of nutrients in its 1,600-foot depths. Every four years, the lake undergoes a mixing of its cold water layers, which promotes the success of native cold-water fish species like lake trout. As temperatures rise, the lake could stop mixing at all, causing a die-off of cold-water fish species and creating perfect conditions for invasive fish like carp, large-mouth bass and bluegill. The stagnant layers will also promote exponential algae growth, turning the famed blue waters of Tahoe into the same dull, murky green seen in most lakes.
"What we expect is that deep mixing of Lake Tahoe's water layers will become less frequent, even nonexistent, depleting the bottom waters of oxygen," said Geoffrey Schladow, director of the Tahoe Environmental Research Center at U.C. Davis.
"A permanently stratified Lake Tahoe becomes just like any other lake or pond," Schladow said. "It is no longer this unique, effervescent jewel, the finest example of nature's grandeur."
The researchers are currently scrambling to determine whether lowered emissions would have any effect on slowing or preventing the decline of Tahoe's deep water mixing. At current rates, Lake Tahoe could stop its mixing process completely as early as 2019.
What's next, Global Warming? Any plans to rob us of more of our natural treasures? Oh, right. Dammit. — Ted Alvarez