Is Air Temperature Enough to Predict Lake Surface Temperature?

Monday, 15 December 2014: 3:01 PM
Sebastiano Piccolroaz, Marco Toffolon and Bruno Majone, University of Trento, Trento, Italy
Lake surface water (LST) is a key factor that controls most of the physical and ecological processes occurring in lakes. Reliable estimates are especially important in the light of recent studies, which revealed that inland water bodies are highly sensitive to climate, and are rapidly warming throughout the world. However, an accurate estimation of LST usually requires a significant amount of information that is not always available.

In this work, we present an application of air2water, a lumped model that simulates LST as a function of air temperature only. In addition, air2water allows for a qualitative evaluation of the depth of the epilimnion during the annual stratification cycle. The model consists in a simplification of the complete heat budget of the well-mixed surface layer, and has a few parameters (from 4 to 8 depending on the version) that summarize the role of the different heat flux components. Model calibration requires only air and water temperature data, possibly covering sufficiently long historical periods in order to capture inter-annual variability and long-term trends. During the calibration procedure, the information included in input data is retrieved to directly inform model parameters, which can be used to classify the thermal behavior of the lake. In order to investigate how thermal dynamics are related to morphological features, the model has been applied to 14 temperate lakes characterized by different morphological and hydrological conditions, by different sources of temperature data (buoys, satellite), and by variable frequency of acquisition. A good agreement between observed and simulated LST has been achieved, with a RMSE in the order of 1°C, which is fully comparable to the performances of more complex process-based models. This application allowed for a deeper understanding of the thermal response of lakes as a function of their morphology, as well as for specific analyses as for example the investigation of the exceptional warming of Lake Superior in summer 1998.