Saturday, February 26, 2011

Lake Baikal May Unlock Climate Impacts

It appears that excellent data collected by one family of scientists living and working on Lake Baikal, Russia, may provide clues to how climate variability affects many diverse species, according to Science Daly ("World's Largest Lake Sheds Light on Ecosystem Responses to Climate Variability" - by Marianne V. Moore, Feb. 18, 2011).

Detailed and frequent measurements of Lake Baikal conditions show correlations between Baikal's temperature and "El Niño indices, reflecting sea surface temperatures over the Pacific Ocean tens of thousands of kilometers away." Measurements also show a strong influence on Baikal conditions by the Pacific Ocean pressure fields described by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

"Remarkably, the temperature record that reflects all these climate messages was collected by three generations of a single family of Siberian scientists, from 1946 to the present, and the correlation of temperature with atmospheric dynamics is further confirmation that this data set is of exceptionally high quality," said [Steve] Katz [of NOAA's Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary]. "This consistent dedication to understanding one of the world's most majestic lakes helps us understand not only the dynamics of Lake Baikal over the past 60 years, but also to recognize future scenarios for Lake Baikal. The statistical approach may be used for similar questions in other ecosystems, although we recognize that the exceptional quality and length of the Baikal data was one of the keys to our success."

Lake Baikal - called the "Pearl of Siberia" - is the world's oldest and deepest lake. It is largest freshwater lake in the world, and home to the Nerpa, one of only three known freshwater seals.

I'd like to point out that those of us working in the increasingly embattled budgetary environment of the public university system in California should look to these scientists working on Baikal for inspiration. They have faced worse barriers than we can imagine working through the funding environment of the Russian Academy of Sciences from 1946 to the present. That family undoubtedly suffered deprivations to maintain their work which many U.S. researchers would not tolerate. My work with those defending the health of Lake Baikal at the small non-profit Pacific Environment has instilled in me a deep respect for the sheer tenacity of Russian scientists. And there's nothing like the passion of a Russian scientist-turned-activist.

Read about Pacific Environment's work protecting Lake Baikal, "the Galapagos of Russia."

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