Ice cover plays a critical role in physical, biogeochemical, and ecological processes in lakes. Despite its importance, winter limnology remains relatively understudied. Here, we provide a primer on the predominant drivers of freshwater lake ice cover and the current methodologies used to study lake ice, including in situ and remote sensing observations, physical based models, and experiments. We highlight opportunities for future research by integrating these four disciplines to address key knowledge gaps in our understanding of lake ice dynamics in changing winters. Advances in technology, data integration, and interdisciplinary collaboration will allow the field to move toward developing global forecasts of lake ice cover for small to large lakes across broad spatial and temporal scales, quantifying ice quality and ice thickness, moving from binary to continuous ice records, and determining how winter ice conditions and quality impact ecosystem processes in lakes over winter. Ultimately, integrating disciplines will improve our ability to understand the impacts of changing winters on lake ice.
- Award ID(s):
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Author(s) / Creator(s):
- ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; more »
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Scientific Data
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
More Like this
Arctic lakes store, modify, and transport large quantities of carbon from terrestrial environments to the atmosphere; however, the spatial and temporal relationships between quantity and composition of dissolved organic matter (DOM) have not been well characterized across broad arctic regions. Moreover, most arctic lake DOM compositions have been examined during the ice‐free summer, whereas DOM cycling between the ice‐covered winter months and summer have not been addressed. To resolve these spatial and seasonal uncertainties in DOM cycling, we sampled a series of arctic lakes from the North Slope of Alaska across a latitudinal gradient in the winter and summer over 3 years. Samples were analyzed for dissolved organic carbon concentration and DOM composition was characterized using optical and fluorescence properties combined with molecular‐level analysis using Fourier transform‐ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry. Tundra lake DOM properties including aromaticity and molecular stoichiometries were similar to other northern high‐latitude lakes, but optical parameters related to aromaticity and molecular weight were greater in major arctic rivers and in coastal lakes in the North Slope region. DOM composition was highly seasonal, with ice exclusion concentrating microbially processed DOM in the winter water columns, potentially influencing DOM cycling the following summer. However, the greatest variations in DOM composition were related to lake depth and likely other physical features including morphology and bathymetry. As the Arctic warms, we expect changes in hydrology and ice cover to enhance under‐ice microbial DOM processing, early summer photodegradation, and ultimately carbon fluxes to the atmosphere after ice‐out.
Winters are changing rapidly across the globe but the implications for aquatic productivity and food webs are not well understood. In addition, the degree to which winter dynamics in aquatic systems respond to large‐scale climate versus ecosystem‐level factors is unclear but important for understanding and managing potential changes. We used a unique winter data set from the Upper Mississippi River System to explore spatial and temporal patterns in phytoplankton biomass (chlorophyll
a, CHL) and associated environmental covariates across 25 years and ∼1,500 river km. To assess the role of regional climate versus site‐specific drivers of winter CHL, we evaluated whether there were coherent long‐term CHL dynamics from north to south and across lotic‐lentic areas. We then estimated the degree to which these patterns were associated with climate variability (i.e., the Multivariate El Nino‐Southern Oscillation Index), winter severity (freezing degree days), river discharge, or site‐specific environmental variables (ice depth, snow depth, and nutrient concentrations). We found that winter CHL was typically highest in ice‐free reaches and backwater lakes, occasionally exceeding summer values. We did not find highly synchronous CHL dynamics across the basin, but instead show that temporal trends were independent among river reaches and lotic‐lentic areas of the river. Moreover, after accounting for these spatial dynamics, we found that CHL was most responsive to winter air temperature, being consistently higher in years with warmer winters across the basin. These results indicate that although productivity dynamics are highly dynamic within large river ecosystems, changes in the duration and severity of winter may uniformly increase wintertime productivity.
Climate change is expected to decrease ice coverage and thickness globally while increasing the variability of ice coverage and thickness on midlatitude lakes. Ice thickness affects physical, biological, and chemical processes as well as safety conditions for scientists and the general public. Measurements of ice thickness that are both temporally frequent and spatially extensive remain a technical challenge. Here new observational methods using repurposed soil moisture sensors that facilitate high spatial–temporal sampling of ice thickness are field tested on Lake Mendota in Wisconsin during the winter 2015/16 season. Spatial variability in ice thickness was high, with differences of 10 cm of ice column thickness over 1.05 km of horizontal distance. When observational data were compared with manual measurements and model output from both the Freshwater Lake (FLake) model and General Lake Model (GLM), ice thickness from sensors matches manual measurements, whereas GLM and FLake results showed a thinner and thicker ice layer, respectively. The FLake-modeled ice column temperature effectively remained at 0°C, not matching observations. We also show that daily ice dynamics follows the expected linear function of ice thickness growth/melt, improving confidence in sensor accuracy under field conditions. We have demonstrated a new method that allows low-cost and high-frequency measurements of ice thickness, which will be needed both to advance winter limnology and to improve on-ice safety.
Warming winters will reduce ice cover and change under‐ice conditions in temperate mountain lakes, where snow contributes most of winter cover on lakes. Snow‐dominated mountain lakes are abundant and highly susceptible to climate warming, yet we lack an understanding of how climate variation and local attributes influence winter processes. We investigated climatic and intrinsic controls on ice phenology, water temperature, and bottom‐water dissolved oxygen (DO) in 15 morphologically diverse lakes in the Sierra Nevada and Klamath Mountains of California, USA, using high‐frequency measurements from multiple (2–5) winters. We found that ice phenology was determined by winter climate variables (snowfall and air temperature) that influence ice‐off timing, whereas ice‐on timing was relatively invariant among years. Lake size and morphology mediated the effect of climate on lake temperature and DO dynamics in early and late winter. Rates of hypolimnetic DO decline were highest in small, shallow lakes, and were unrelated to water temperature. Temperature and oxygen dynamics were more variable in small lakes because heavy snowfall caused ice submergence, mixing, and DO replenishment that affected the entire water column. As the persistence of snow declines in temperate mountain regions, autumn, and spring climatic conditions are expected to gain importance in regulating lake ice phenology. Water temperature and DO will likely increase in most lakes during winter as snowpack declines, but morphological attributes such as lake size will determine the sensitivity of ice phenology and under‐ice processes to climate change.