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What factors contribute to the depth of lakes?

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Quick Answer

While there are many ways lakes are formed, the factors that contribute to lake depths can include glacial scouring, tectonic movement, volcanic activity and erosion. There are also man-made lakes created by dams, and in these lakes, erosion and movements of small amounts of water can contribute to a lake's depth.

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Full Answer

Glacial lakes, including the Great Lakes, were formed as glaciers moved over land during the last ice age. Glacial movement created deep depressions in the Earth's surface, and melting ice in these locations formed lakes. The main factor that contributed to lake depth was the pressure exerted by the glaciers. In some cases, these glaciers displaced piles of rocks and debris, forming a moraine that was then filled by melting glacial ice.

Tectonic activity near fault lines can also create lakes. When the Earth's plates shift and separate, lakes are formed in the spaces between. Since tectonic plates are so huge, these shifts can create some of the deepest lakes.

Erosion can both form lakes and determine their depth. River erosion might create an area where a lake forms, and the continuing erosion can add more water and deposit sediment at the bottom of the lake. Both of these factors can contribute to a lake being deep or shallow.

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