A Lake Twice the Size of
Los Angeles Has Evaporated—and It May Never Return
Fish skeletons, dead
birds, and fishing boats sit abandoned on the desiccated stretch of land that
was once the second-largest lake in Bolivia. Lake Poopó is now practically
bone-dry, leaving species decimated and hundreds of people without jobs.
The lake—once twice the
size of Los Angeles—has shrunk down to just 2 percent of its previous size, The
Associated Press reports. It was officially declared evaporated in December.
Officials cite a drought
fueled by El Niño weather patterns as the primary culprit for the lake’s
disappearance. Located in the semiarid Andean plains at 12,000 feet above sea
level, the 977-square-mile lake has dried up and rebounded in the past. But
this time, experts don’t believe it will recover.
think we’ll be seeing the azure mirror of Poopó again,” Milton Perez, a
Universidad Tecnica researcher, told the AP. “I think we’ve lost it.”
That’s because El Niño weather events are becoming stronger and more
frequent because of rising global temperatures, leaving the lake little time to
replenish itself after a dry season. “It’s only going to get worse,” Perez
said. The area has seen a temperature increase of 0.9 degrees Celsius over the
past 60 years, causing water from the lake to evaporate roughly three times as
fast, according to Perez.