Scientists complete a global inventory of lakes

by Mary Caperton Morton
Monday, January 5, 2015

Oregon's Crater Lake is one of more than 117 million newly inventoried lakes around the world. Credit: Mary Caperton Morton.

How many lakes are there in the world? Until recently, the exact number was anybody’s guess. Now, a new global inventory conducted using satellite imagery has placed the count at 117 million. The GLObal WAter BOdies database (GLOWABO) includes all lakes greater than 0.002 square kilometers, which combined, cover a surface area of 5 million square kilometers, or 3.7 percent of the Earth’s nonglaciated land area.

Previously, global lake counts relied on map compilations and statistical extrapolations. The new study, led by Charles Verpoorter of Uppsala University in Sweden and published in Geophysical Research Letters, is the first to take a count using satellite imagery. The new study revealed the actual number of lakes is much lower than previous estimates, which placed the number of lakes at about 304 million, but the total surface area covered is greater than indicated by past estimates.

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