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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Vanishing Lake

Vanishing Lake

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Monday, November 7, 2016/Categories: natural history, space science, sustainability, environment

                                 Extent of Pleistocene Lake Bonneville (credit: Carleton College)

The Great Salt Lake is vanishing and it is happening in real time.

The Pleistocene Lake Bonneville was originally the largest freshwater lake, after the Great Lakes, in the continental US. Its salty remnant, the Great Salt Lake in Utah, has shrunk to its lowest recorded level and potentially could completely dry up. Satellite photography taken 5 years apart shows the extent of the lake's decline.


        Antelope Island/Framington Bay, Great Salt Lake 9-24-2011 (credit: Landsat 5) & 9-20-2016  (credit: Landsat 8)  

The hyper-saline inland lake with no outlet is nealy 5 times as salty as the ocean and while it has no fish, the lake but supports a wide diversity of birds and other wildlife. Water from lake is mined for minerals like lithium, boron, and manganese and brine shrimp eggs are harvested for shrimp and fish aquaculture production worldwide.

According to NASA lake level measurements,

"cities have been taking more water out of the lake's watershed than is flowing into it now, diverting ~40 percent of river waters (which would normally refill the lake) for farming, industry, and human consumption."

Persistent drought in the West has contributed to its decline and the Great Salt Lake is now nearly 50% smaller than when permanent human settlement began 150 years ago. A watershed position paper from Utah State University: found that river flow into the lake's basin has been reduced nearly 40% percent since the middle of the 19th century and called for greater conservation, particularly in agricultural uses. The recently exposed saline flats, where once a lake existed, now produce volumes of fine dust when winds blow across them.

Climate change models predict increasing regional aridity and water conservation should be the 'prime directive' in all these desert regions to sustain people and wildlife. There are many reasons to hope a good portion of the ancient lake become restored.



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