Lake - Origin of Natural Lakes

Origin of Natural Lakes

There are a number of natural processes that can form lakes. A recent tectonic uplift of a mountain range can create bowl-shaped depressions that accumulate water and form lakes. The advance and retreat of glaciers can scrape depressions in the surface where water accumulates; such lakes are common in Scandinavia, Patagonia, Siberia and Canada. The most notable examples are probably the Great Lakes of North America.

Lakes can also form by means of landslides or by glacial blockages. An example of the latter occurred during the last ice age in the U.S. state of Washington, when a huge lake formed behind a glacial flow; when the ice retreated, the result was an immense flood that created the Dry Falls at Sun Lakes, Washington.

Salt lakes (also called saline lakes) can form where there is no natural outlet or where the water evaporates rapidly and the drainage surface of the water table has a higher-than-normal salt content. Examples of salt lakes include Great Salt Lake, the Aral Sea and the Dead Sea.

Small, crescent-shaped lakes called oxbow lakes can form in river valleys as a result of meandering. The slow-moving river forms a sinuous shape as the outer side of bends are eroded away more rapidly than the inner side. Eventually a horseshoe bend is formed and the river cuts through the narrow neck. This new passage then forms the main passage for the river and the ends of the bend become silted up, thus forming a bow-shaped lake.

Crater lakes are formed in volcanic craters and calderas which fill up with precipitation more rapidly than they empty via evaporation. Sometimes the latter are called caldera lakes, although often no distinction is made. An example is Crater Lake in Oregon, located within the caldera of Mount Mazama. The caldera was created in a massive volcanic eruption that led to the subsidence of Mount Mazama around 4860 BC.

Gloe Lakes are freshwater lakes that have emerged when the water they consists of has been separated, not considerably long before, from the sea as a consequence of post-glacial rebound.

Some lakes, such as Lake Jackson in Florida, USA, come into existence as a result of sinkhole activity.

Lake Vostok is a subglacial lake in Antarctica, possibly the largest in the world. The pressure from the ice atop it and its internal chemical composition mean that, if the lake were drilled into, a fissure could result that would spray somewhat like a geyser.

Most lakes are geologically young and shrinking since the natural results of erosion will tend to wear away the sides and fill the basin. Exceptions are those such as Lake Baikal and Lake Tanganyika that lie along continental rift zones and are created by the crust's subsidence as two plates are pulled apart. These lakes are the oldest and deepest in the world. Lake Baikal, which is 25-30 million years old, is deepening at a faster rate than it is being filled by erosion and may be destined over millions of years to become attached to the global ocean. The Red Sea, for example, is thought to have originated as a rift-valley lake.

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