Key Facts about Lake Titicaca

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The water levels at Lake Titicaca are now reaching record lows, worsened by the El Nino weather phenomenon, compounding a long dry spell and rare high temperatures.

About Lake Titicaca

  • It is the highest navigable body of water in the world.
  • It is located at 3,810 metres above sea level in the Andes Mountains of South America.
  • It lies on the border between Peru to the west and Bolivia to the east.
  • Titicaca is the second-largest lake in South America (after Maracaibo). 
  • It covers some 8,300 square km and extends in a northwest-to-southeast direction for a distance of 190 km. 
  • It is 50 miles (80 km) across at its widest point.
  • A narrow strait, Tiquina, separates the lake into two bodies of water. 
  • The lake averages between 140 and 180 metres in depth, but the bottom tilts sharply toward the Bolivian shore.
  • The lake is 284 m deep at its deepest point, located in the northeastern section of the lake.
  • More than 25 rivers empty their waters into Titicaca; the largest, the Ramis, drains about two-fifths of the entire Titicaca Basin.
  • Forty-one islands rise from Titicaca’s waters, the largest of which, Titicaca Island, can be seen just off the tip of the Copacabana Peninsula in Bolivia.
  • Lake Titicaca is a designated Ramsar Site of International Importance.

What are El Nino and La Nina?

  • El Nino and La Nina are two opposing climate trends that deviate from normal conditions and normally run for nine to twelve months, but can often extend.
  • These events occur every two to seven years on average (El Nino is more frequent than La Nina), but not on a regular basis, and together are referred to as the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle by scientists.
  • El Nino is typically known as the warm phase (a band of warmer water spreading from west to east in the equatorial Pacific Ocean), and La Nina is identified as the cold phase (a band of cooler water spreading east to west) of ENSO.
  • Both El Nino and La Nina can have global effects on weather, wildfires, ecosystems, and economics.
  • What happens during El Nino?
    • During El Niño, trade winds weaken.
    • Warm water is pushed back east, toward the west coast of the Americas.
    • Rainfall increases drastically in Ecuador and northern Peru, contributing to coastal flooding and erosion. 
    • As El Niño brings rain to South America, it brings droughts to Indonesia and Australia.
    • Stronger El Niño events also disrupt global atmospheric circulation. 
    • The eastward movement of oceanic and atmospheric heat sources causes unusually severe winter weather at the higher latitudes of North and South America.

Q1) What is a Strait?

A strait can be defined as a naturally formed narrow strip of water between two continents, islands or two larger bodies of water. It is usually used for navigational purposes and is sometimes referred to as a channel when it is found between two land masses.

Source: In South America’s Andes, a shrinking Lake Titicaca rings climate alarm bell