Climate change has helped turn Utah’s Great Salt Lake into ‘a puddle of its former self’
Climate change is taking its toll on Utah’s Great Salt Lake and making it a “puddle of its former self,” according to a new report published in the Salt Lake Tribune.
Although the lake is still shown in its former glory on most maps, it has shrunk dramatically and now holds half its historical average, the newspaper reported. Utah is one of several western states with extreme drought conditions that researchers have linked to climate change, and the lake’s water level hit a new low in July.
In the west, water issues have long been part of the political landscape, and in September Republicans Blake Moore and Senator Mitt Romney passed a bill that spends $ 25 million on overseeing the water system that feeds the Great Salt Flat.
“The water level is at the lowest level in history, resulting in habitat loss, decreased water flows and air quality issues,” Moore said in a press release. “Unfortunately, salt lakes in the Great Basin countries face the same challenges.”
Climate change is a major driver of the Great Salt Lake’s disappearance, but human diversion from tributaries that flow into it has also affected its water level. The result, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, is now more shorelines are being exposed, threatening the brine shrimp that inhabit the remains of the lake and the birds that rely on them for food.
An area of the Great Salt Lake that was previously under water is now completely dry. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)
Although the lake’s water is not potable for humans, it is home to an ecosystem that benefits them. Sea-effect snowstorms, for example, help create water for much of the area. The exposed dry lake, meanwhile, poses a threat to air quality in Salt Lake City, the Tribune reported, adding more dust to the snowpack, making it melt earlier in the year and further disrupting water supplies in the area’s ecosystem.
It’s a cascading series of events that scientists have long warned about.
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“In the course of climate change, we have learned in the last few decades that we also have to determine the amount and source of water, the intensity of storms, precipitation patterns, the severity of droughts and floods, the demand for water from plants and our natural vegetation,” said the Climate scientist Peter Gleick recently in a podcast on the “climate crisis” opposite Yahoo News.
The effects of climate change on Salt Lake City are no longer theoretical, and last week Utah Governor Spencer Cox described the lake’s sinking water level as “an all-hands-on-deck problem.”
The reality of how people are hastening the sinking of the Great Salt Lake can no longer be ignored, and weather forecasts like AccuWeather have chosen to use their maps to reflect the situation.
“AccuWeather strives to pinpoint the boundaries of lakes to highlight the effects of climate change on our changing world,” the media company said in a statement.
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