This paper illustrates the results of an analysis performed on historical data of the main meteorological and water quality variables collected during the last fifty years in the basin of Lake Trasimeno, a shallow lake subjected to important water level fluctuations. The results reveal a significant increase of the annual mean of minimum and maximum air temperature, water temperature and solar radiation, and a significant reduction of precipitation and cloud cover, which have mostly occurred during the last twenty years. The decadal rate of warming observed in the last twenty years for air temperature (0.33 °C decade-1) is consistent with the estimate reported by the IPCC for the land-surface temperature in the Northern Hemisphere, whereas the surface water temperature in Lake Trasimeno shows a more marked increase (0.65 °C decade-1), comparable to that observed in other lakes of Mediterranean areas. On a monthly scale, the most significant variations are observed in late-spring and early summer months for temperature and solar irradiation, and in winter and spring months for rainfall, which result in an appreciable modification of the seasonal progression. The alterations of the thermal and hydrological balance of the lake have caused a progressive lowering of the water level and the emergence of evaporative conditions. As a consequence of the drought, a progressive accumulation of dissolved salts (3.5 106 kg y-1) is observed, which is partially explained by meteoric loading. The analysis also shows that an increase in the total alkalinity has occurred during the main drought phases of the last forty years, which has been shown to be consistent with what expected on the basis of the changes in the ionic composition of the waters. With decreasing water levels, a strong reduction in water transparency has also been observed, which does not appear to be connected with a change in the trophic state of the lake, but rather with the increase of suspended solids from bottom sediments, in agreement with the predictions based on resuspension models in shallow waters. On putting the results into the future scenario of climate change, an accelerating drought and progressive worsening of the water quality can be predicted for Lake Trasimeno in the near future.
LTER, shallow lakes, drought, climate change, salinisation