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Depth, ice thickness, and ice-out timing cause divergent hydrologic responses among Arctic lakes

December 1, 2015

Lakes are prevalent in the Arctic and thus play a key role in regional hydrology. Since many Arctic lakes are shallow and ice grows thick (historically 2-m or greater), seasonal ice commonly freezes to the lake bed (bedfast ice) by winter's end. Bedfast ice fundamentally alters lake energy balance and melt-out processes compared to deeper lakes that exceed the maximum ice thickness (floating ice) and maintain perennial liquid water below floating ice. Our analysis of lakes in northern Alaska indicated that ice-out of bedfast ice lakes occurred on average 17 days earlier (22-June) than ice-out on adjacent floating ice lakes (9-July). Earlier ice-free conditions in bedfast ice lakes caused higher open-water evaporation, 28% on average, relative to floating ice lakes and this divergence increased in lakes closer to the coast and in cooler summers. Water isotopes (18O and 2H) indicated similar differences in evaporation between these lake types. Our analysis suggests that ice regimes created by the combination of lake depth relative to ice thickness and associated ice-out timing currently cause a strong hydrologic divergence among Arctic lakes. Thus understanding the distribution and dynamics of lakes by ice regime is essential for predicting regional hydrology. An observed regime shift in lakes to floating ice conditions due to thinner ice growth may initially offset lake drying because of lower evaporative loss from this lake type. This potential negative feedback caused by winter processes occurs in spite of an overall projected increase in evapotranspiration as the Arctic climate warms.

Publication Year 2015
Title Depth, ice thickness, and ice-out timing cause divergent hydrologic responses among Arctic lakes
DOI 10.1002/2015WR017362
Authors Christopher D. Arp, Benjamin M. Jones, Anna K. Liljedahl, Kenneth M. Hinkel, Jeffery A. Welker
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Water Resources Research
Index ID 70159863
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Geography