Earth Science

Water on Earth

Ponds and Lakes

Study Tip
To remember the difference between ponds and lakes, compare the L’s: Lakes are Larger than ponds.

Ponds

These are typical characteristics of ponds:

  • Small bodies of freshwater without an outlet
  • Fed by an underground spring
  • Like lakes, they are bordered by hills or low rises so the water is blocked from flowing directly downhill
Study Tip
To remember the difference between ponds and lakes, compare the L’s: Lakes are Larger than ponds.

Lakes

These are typical characteristics of lakes:

  • Larger bodies of freshwater drained by a stream
  • Can be naturally occurring or human-made
  • Lose water to evaporation
  • Form in a variety of ways:
  • In depressions carved by glaciers
  • In calderas
  • Along tectonic faults
  • Subglacial lakes are found below frozen ice caps
  • Not permanent features of a landscape. Lakes can disappear when:
  • They fill with sediments
  • Springs or streams that fill them diminish
  • Outlets grow because of erosion
  • Precipitation significantly diminishes
  • Have tidal systems and currents, which can affect weather patterns
  • Man-made “reservoirs” are lakes which form when a stream is dammed and water backs up behind it
Crater Lake
(a) Crater Lake in Oregon is in a volcanic caldera. Lakes can also form in volcanic craters and impact craters. (b) The Great Lakes fill depressions eroded as glaciers scraped rock out from the landscape. (c) Lake Baikail, ice coated in winter in this image, formed as water filled up a tectonic faults.
Concept Check
  • What is the reason that Earth has many more lakes than is normal during Earth's history? What will happen as climate warms?
  • How is a large lake like an ocean? How is it different?
  • What is the difference between ponds and lakes? How are they similar?