Utah’s Great Salt Lake has a fitting moniker. It is recognized for its breathtaking vistas and is the largest saltwater lake in the western hemisphere. The Large Salt Lake is becoming somewhat less great, at least in terms of size, due to climate change, and human increase.
The Great Salt Lake by Satellite
The lake has been diminishing since the middle of the 1980s, as seen in recent images from NASA. The average water height of the Great Salt Lake in 1986, when it reached its highest known level, was 1,283.7 meters.
The lake has decreased by around 6.7 meters since that time, reaching a new record low on July 3, 2022, of 1,277.1 meters. By August 10th, the water level had fallen to 1,276.9 meters.
Although the Great Salt Lake’s water levels can vary from year to year, they have usually been dropping for many years, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory.
The Impact Of Population Growth And Climate Change
The area around Salt Lake City in Utah has seen population growth from 700,000 to 1.2 million between 1982 and 2022, and more water is being withdrawn from the region for housing and agriculture. Water from the atmosphere is falling as rain more frequently than snow as a result of climate change and the heat it causes. According to researcher Bonnie Baxter, “Snow is better for the lake because it gets held in the mountains and released slowly.”
Exposing the Great Salt Lake
Up until recently, the Great Salt Lake could survive “a few years of drought,” according to Baxter. But as of right now, she continued, it is unable to “properly tackle the stresses of climate change.” Researchers at Utah State University estimate that since 1850, human use of the water has resulted in a decrease of roughly 40% in water inflows to the Great Salt Lake.
According to NASA, white fringes around the lake’s margin indicate where the lakebed has recently been revealed. Diverse water depths and levels of sediment, salt, bacteria, and algae also exhibit distinct colorations.
A Valuable Economic And Natural Asset
According to NASA, the Great Salt Lake supports brine shrimp and salt harvesting enterprises, magnesium mining, and recreational activities, and it contributes an estimated $1.5 billion to Utah’s economy. The shallow waters of the lake are home to “millions of migratory birds.” According to different research from the European Space Agency (ESA), the Great Salt Lake’s receding waters could have “devastating effects” on the region’s economy, ecology, and population.
The ESA explains that as the lake decreases, it gets saltier, which “endangers flies and brine shrimp, which millions of birds depend on for food.” In addition to endangering human health, drying the lakebed releases dust into the air that is “laced with copper, arsenic, and other harmful heavy metals” as a result of leftover mining waste, the report claims.
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