I Learned What a "Meromictic" Lake is Today!


Just Another Thing One Should Know!

Sometimes I wish I had paid more attention in science class. Today, I learned what a Meromictic lake is for the first time (I can remember). To put a lake like this in perspective, I can best relate it to a pool. My parents had a pool they kept covered with a solar cover growing up. When you wanted to swim in the pool, you would roll up the pool's cover and jump in. First, you would notice how warm the pool's top was compared to the middle layer and down to the bottom.

A Meromictic Lake is similar in that the layers do not intermix. You would encounter a hot top and then notice profound temperature changes throughout the pool, almost like someone flipped a switch.

A Meromictic Lake is comprised of three separate layers as described by WorldAtlas.com.

The Layers Of A Meromictic Lake
Monimolimnion Layer: The water of this layer of the lake is usually hypoxic (low oxygen) and more saline than the rest of the lake and have little circulation.
Mixolimnion Layer: This is the top layer of the lake which behaves like a holomictic (uniform) lake.
Chemocline: The middle layer between the upper and lower is called the chemocline.
3 Layers Meromictic Lakemedia by JC

These three layers have their environment as they exhibit three different oxygen levels and are home to other organisms. The bottom layer, or the monimolimnion, is an inhospitable layer due to its very low oxygen. For this reason, scientists are enamored with the data they can gain from studying this layer due to the sediment on the bottom being largely untouched. The lack of oxygen means fewer living things stirring things up.

This also means if this layer is disturbed for any reason, it can have devastating effects on the lake. One example could be an earthquake causing the various layers to intermix and vastly decreasing oxygen in the upper layers. This could potentially suffocate the organisms living their best life at the upper levels.

What causes this phenomenon where you would have three different levels of stratification? Science would tell you there are two reasons for being endogenic or exogenic.

  1. Endogenic means the stratifications seen in the lake are caused by internal events, such as organic matter accumulating in the sediments and decaying.
  2. Ectogenic means the stratifications seen are caused by external causes, like an intrusion of saline (Saltwater).

Interesting facts:

For every meromictic lake, there are 1000 holomictic (common) lakes.

The largest meromictic water source is the Black Sea.

Aerial View of LakePhoto by Artem B on Unsplash

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