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Lake Tanganyika, the deepest and most voluminous lake in Africa, has warmed over the last century in response to climate change. Separate analyses of surface warming rates estimated from in situ instruments, satellites, and a paleolimnological temperature proxy (TEX86) disagree, leaving uncertainty about the thermal sensitivity of Lake Tanganyika to climate change. Here, we use a comprehensive database of in situ temperature data from the top 100 meters of the water column that span the lake’s seasonal range and lateral extent to demonstrate that long-term temperature trends in Lake Tanganyika depend strongly on depth, season, and latitude. The observed spatiotemporal variation in surface warming rates accounts for small differences between warming rate estimates from in situ instruments and satellite data. However, after accounting for spatiotemporal variation in temperature and warming rates, the TEX86 paleolimnological proxy yields lower surface temperatures (1.46 °C lower on average) and faster warming rates (by a factor of three) than in situ measurements. Based on the ecology of Thaumarchaeota (the microbes whose biomolecules are involved with generating the TEX86 proxy), we offer a reinterpretation of the TEX86 data from Lake Tanganyika as the temperature of the low-oxygen zone, rather than of the lake surface temperature as has been suggested previously. Our analyses provide a thorough accounting of spatiotemporal variation in warming rates, offering strong evidence that thermal and ecological shifts observed in this massive tropical lake over the last century are robust and in step with global climate change


Copyright: © 2015 Kraemer et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.