EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Global heat uptake by inland waters

Inne Vanderkelen1, Nicole P.M. van Lipzig2, Dave Lawrence3, Bram Droppers4, Malgorzata Golub5, Simon N. Gosling6, Annette B. G. Janssen4, Rafael Marcé7, Hannes Müller Schmied8,9, Martorie Perroud10, Don Pierson5, Yadu Pokhrel11, Yusuke Satoh12, Jacob Schewe13, Sonia I. Seneviratne14, Victor M. Stepanenko15, Richard I. Woolway16, and Wim Thiery1,14
Inne Vanderkelen et al.
  • 1Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Hydrology and Hydraulic Engineering, Brussels, Belgium (
  • 2KU Leuven, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Leuven, Belgium
  • 3National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, USA
  • 4Wageningen University & Research Water Systems and Global Change group, Wageningen, The Netherlands
  • 5Uppsala University, Department of Ecology and Genetics, Uppsala, Sweden
  • 6University of Nottingham, School of Geography, Nottingham, United Kingdom
  • 7Catalan Institute for Water Research, Biogeochemistry and Aquatic Ecosystems Modelling, Girona, Spain
  • 8Goethe University Frankfurt, Institute of Physical Geography, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
  • 9Senckenberg Leibniz Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (SBiK-F), Frankfurt am Main, Germany
  • 10University of Geneva, Institute for Environmental Sciences, Geneva, Switzerland
  • 11Michigan State University, College of Engineering, East Lansing, MI, United States
  • 12National Institute for Environmental Studies, Center for Global Environmental Research, Tsukuba, Japan
  • 13Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Potsdam, Germany
  • 14ETH Zurich, Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 15Moscow State University, Research Computing Center, Moscow, Russia
  • 16Dundalk Institute of Technology, Centre for Freshwater and Environmental Studies, Dundalk, Ireland

Heat uptake is a key variable for understanding Earth system response to greenhouse gas forcing. Recent assessments highlighted that most of the excess energy is stored in the oceans, whereas the land, atmosphere and ice melt take up smaller amounts. However, despite the importance of this heat budget, heat uptake by inland waters has so far not been quantified. Here we use a unique combination of global-scale lake models, global hydrological models and Earth system models to, for the first time, quantify global heat uptake by lakes, reservoirs and rivers over the industrial period (1900-2020).

We use a total of 16 different simulations of global-scale lake models and global hydrological models driven by the same bias-corrected climate forcing from four different global climate models, conducted within the framework of the Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISIMIP). The model output is combined with reservoir and lake data from the Global Reservoir and Dam (GRanD) database and HydroLAKES.

Total inland water heat uptake in the industrial period amounts to 2.8 ± 4.3x1020 J by the end of the period, with the largest uptake realised after 1990. The overall uptake is dominated by warming of natural lakes (2.9 ± 2.0x1020 J, the multi-model mean and standard deviation; 103% of total inland water heat uptake), followed by reservoir warming (5.9 ± 2.7x1018 J; 2.1%). The multi-model mean heat uptake by rivers contributes negatively to the total heat uptake (-0.15 ± 4.3x1020 J; -5.3%), but encompasses a large uncertainty originating from the river storage term, simulated by the global hydrological models. The global picture of positive heat uptake by natural lakes is confirmed at the regional scale in the major lake regions by all global-scale lake model and global climate model combinations. The heat uptake by inland waters makes up ~3.2% of continental heat uptake reported in the IPCC AR5 (2013). The rapid increase in dam construction and resulting reservoir expansion in the second half of the 20th century causes a heat redistribution from ocean to land by storing extra water on land. Remarkably, this heat redistribution exceeds the anthropogenic heat uptake by inland waters by a factor of ~ 9.6, adding up to 27 ± 2.1x1020 J.

Our results overall underline the importance of inland waters for buffering atmospheric warming through enhanced anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations. 

How to cite: Vanderkelen, I., van Lipzig, N. P. M., Lawrence, D., Droppers, B., Golub, M., Gosling, S. N., Janssen, A. B. G., Marcé, R., Müller Schmied, H., Perroud, M., Pierson, D., Pokhrel, Y., Satoh, Y., Schewe, J., Seneviratne, S. I., Stepanenko, V. M., Woolway, R. I., and Thiery, W.: Global heat uptake by inland waters, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-18875,, 2020

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