After 2,400 years, there is life again in the Greenland lake Kaffeklubben Sø, the world’s northernmost lake. Covered by solid layers of ice for the last 2,400 years, recent thawing of the lake is bringing evolution and return of biological life – described as a manifestation of climate change.
3,500 year old Kaffeklubben Sø lake
Scientists estimate that lake Kaffeklubben Sø formed 3,500 years ago due to increased rainfall levels in this northern section of Greenland. But about 2,400 years ago, Greenland experienced a sharp drop in temperatures. As the lake became permanently frozen and deep layers of ice prevent any sunlight from reaching life inside the lake, aquatic life within the lake disappeared. No biological life could survive the cold and dark conditions, thus the absence of life for most of the lake’s 3,500 years of existence.
Changes, slow at first, started to appear in the 1920s. Biological evolution and life starting to return more fiercely since the 1960s and 1970s. With continued record high summer temperatures over the last few decades, thawing of lake Kaffeklubben Sø persisted. Recent Greenland summers peaked at 34°F or 1.6°C. Higher water temperatures and the penetrating of sunlight for the first time in 2,400 years, remarkably revived biological life in the lake. Today, the lake supports notable diatom populations. Diatoms are algae and the growth of this common type of phytoplankton is strongly influenced by nutrients including nitrogen and phosphor. Questions were thus raised whether the population re-growth could be as a result of water and air pollution. Scientists ruled out this option – no traces of nutrient pollutions are evident. The return of life in lake Kaffeklubben Sø is purely attributed to climate change. Although the return of life to the lake is not completely unexpected, scientists remain surprised at diatom population explosions. And although the lake might still seem quite lifeless, current records show a total of 20 species calling lake Kaffeklubben Sø home.
Scientists continue to investigate and debate climate change, yet no one truly knows what to expect from climate change in the future. Change, like the reviving of biological life in a lifeless corner of the planet, is however a certainty.
Photo credits by CNaene via freedigitalphotos.net