How And Why Can A Lake Disappear?

Lake Chad is often cited as an example of a "disappearing lake".
Lake Chad is often cited as an example of a "disappearing lake".

Lakes are one of the most important sources of water in the world. There are 122 large lakes in the world (lakes over 390 square miles in area) that account for up to 29% of all inland standing water on the planet. With many lakes being huge in size like the Caspian Sea that occupies an area of 143,000 square miles, the disappearance of a lake might seem somewhat far-fetched. However, lakes do disappear with some taking hundreds of years to disappear completely and some, such as Russia’s Lake Beloye, disappearing in only a few minutes. The primary cause for the disappearance of lakes is the diversion of waters from the lakes’ tributaries.

The Sudden Disappearance Of Lake Peigneur

Lake Peigneur was one of the largest lakes in the state of Louisiana, US, covering an area of 1,300 acres. The lake was home to a wide array of wildlife and even had an island. However, in 1980 Lake Peigneur had suddenly disappeared. The cause of the disappearance was an event which seemed to be straight out of science-fiction. On November 21, 1980, one of the numerous oil drills in Lake Peigneur was stuck 1,200 feet below the surface of the lake, and suddenly the rig platform began tilting. No sooner had the oil rig crew evacuated from the platform than the entire rig collapsed and disappeared beneath the lake’s surface. The submersion of the massive oil rig astonished the crew as the lake had a maximum depth of only 11 feet. Soon a huge whirlpool developed where the rig initially stood, which violently sucked in other oil drilling platforms as well as a nearby dock. The flow of the Delcambre Canal, which drained into the Gulf of Mexico, was reversed and directed into the whirlpool along with a tug boat and 11 barges. Soon the lake’s 3.5 billion gallons of water disappeared into the hole.

How Human Activity And Needs Emptied Lake Chad

Lake Chad is one of the best examples of a shrunken lake which is in the process of disappearing. Lake Chad is a large lake found in Chad, a country in central Africa. The lake was historically one of the biggest lakes in Africa and is estimated to have covered as much as 390,000 square miles at around 5,000 BC. The immense historical size of the lake continued throughout thousands of years with ancient Roman explorers documenting its existence and great size during the reign of Augustus. In the mid-20th century, the lake was still among the largest in Africa covering an area of 10,000 square miles in the 1960s. Currently, Lake Chad is just nothing more but a shadow of its ancient size as the lake now covers an area of 520 square miles. The lake has lost as much as 95% of its size in less than a century. The primary cause of the shrinkage of Lake Chad is the great demand of its water by the surrounding population as the lake is located in an arid region.

The Sudden Disappearances Of Lake Jackson Due To Natural Causes

Lake Jackson is a prairie lake situated in Leon County, Florida. The lake is famous for its dramatic disappearance. The lake is relatively small, covering an area of only 6.2 square miles and a maximum length of 8 miles. Lake Jackson has no outflow streams, and its primary outflow is the sinkholes which funnel the lake’s water into the Florida Aquifer. The two most notable sinkholes through which the lake water drains are the Porter Hole Sink situated in the southern area of the lake and the Lime Sink which is located in the northern portion of the lake. This outflow sometimes completely drains the lake, particularly during periods when the level of groundwater drops causing Lake Jackson to suddenly disappear. In September 1999, the lake disappeared after completely draining through the sinkholes leaving only a few scattered pools. The earliest recorded disappearance of Lake Jackson was documented in May 1907, and since then the lake has completely drained in 1982, 1957, 1936, 1935, 1932 and 1909.

The Loss Of The Aral Sea Due To Overexploitation By Humans

The Aral Sea was a large lake situated in Central Asia covering both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. During its peak, the Aral Sea was one of the biggest lakes in the world covering an area of about 26,300 square miles. The Aral Sea is one of the worst ecological disasters in history as widespread detrimental human activities witnessed in the 20th century caused the lake to disappear, leaving a thin strip of two small lakes. The disappearance of the Aral Sea was mainly caused by intense irrigation projects of the Soviet Republic which diverted the rivers that were the main inflows of the lake. By the late 20th century, about 90% of the lake’s water had disappeared. High temperatures have caused part of the dried lake basin to turn to a harsh desert known as the Aralkum Desert.

The Dead Sea Is Dying Fast

The Dead Sea is a large hypersaline lake situated in the Middle East and is famed for being the lowest point of elevation on earth as the shores are about 1,412 feet below sea level. The lake covers an area of 234 square miles and has a maximum length of 31 miles and a maximum width of 9.3 miles. The Dead Sea is the deepest hypersaline lake in the world with a maximum depth of 978 feet. In recent years, the Dead Sea has been disappearing at an alarming rate. In the early 20th century, the Dead Sea occupied an area of 410 square miles which means that the lake has shrunk by 176 square miles in about 100 years. This decline has been caused by the diversion of the waters from the lake’s main tributary, the Jordan River and is accelerated by evaporation caused by the high temperatures experienced in the region. Records show that the Dead Sea’s water level has been receding at a rate of 3 feet per year since the 1970s.

Projects To Revert And Avert The Disappearance Of Lakes

The disappearance of numerous major lakes around the world reached an unprecedented rate in the 20th century with such disappearance being primarily caused by human activity. The disappearance of some lakes such as Lake Chad has led to intergovernmental conflict between the countries which rely on the waters. To avert and ultimately revert the disappearing of the world’s lakes, governments, as well as international organizations, have set in place projects some of which are so ambitious that their feasibility and sustainability is questionable. To replenish the water levels in the Dead Sea, the Jordanian government is about to commence a $10-billion project known as the Red Sea-Dead Sea Conveyance which intends to transport sea water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea through a pipeline.


More in Environment