Scientists used to think Lake Hazen, located around 560 miles away from the North Pole in Canada, was beyond the reach of human impact. But new research led by geographer Igor Lehnherr of the University of Toronto Mississauga reveals the High Arctic lake is reacting to climate change. Lehnherr said in the university’s statement, “Even in a place so far north, it’s no longer cold enough to prevent the glaciers from shrinking. If this place is no longer conducive for glaciers to grow, there are not many other refuges left on the planet.”
Lake Hazen park staff and visitors noticed the lake’s lack of ice in the summer; in the past, it was rare for the ice to melt completely during that time. Their reports sparked this new study, as did the realization that glaciers melted more in summer than they were growing in the winter, according to Lehnherr.
Scientists drew on research dating back to the 1950s for a study that is “the first to aggregate and analyze massive data sets on Lake Hazen,” according to the university. Lehnherr said on his website, the Environmental and Aquatic Biogeochemistry Laboratory, “What our study shows is that even in the High Arctic, warming is now occurring to such an extent that it is no longer cold enough for glaciers to grow, and lake ice to persist year-round.”
Since Lake Hazen is so big, theoretically it should show more resilience to climate change compared to smaller bodies of water or ponds, Lehnherr said in the university’s statement. His website said he and his team had hypothesized Lake Hazen would be “relatively resilient to the impacts of Arctic warming” and the “finding that this was not the case is alarming.”
Lehnherr said in the university’s statement, “If this lake is exhibiting signs of climate change, it really shows how pervasive these changes are.”
The journal Nature Communications published the research online this week; scientists from institutions in Canada, the United States, and Austria also contributed.