Ice Regime and Melt-out Timing Cause Divergent Hydrologic Responses among Arctic Lakes
Tuesday, 15 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Lakes are prevalent in the Arctic and thus play a key role in regional hydrology. Because many lakes are shallow and ice grows thick (historically 2-m or greater), lakes often freeze solid (bedfast ice) and this condition fundamentally alters lake energy balance and melt-out processes compared to deeper lakes with perennial liquid water below floating ice. Our analysis of lakes in northern Alaska indicated that ice-off in bedfast ice lakes occurred on average 17 days earlier (22-June) than ice-off in adjacent floating ice lakes (9-July). Earlier melt 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. Specific conductivity and water isotopes (18O and 2H) indicated similar differences in evaporation between these lake types. Our analysis suggests that ice regimes and associated ice-out timing currently create a strong hydrologic divergence among Arctic lakes, which makes understanding the distribution and dynamics of lakes by ice regime essential for predicting regional hydrology. An observed trend towards more floating ice lakes 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 is in spite of an overall projected increase in evapotranspiration as the Arctic climate warms. The unusually warm spring observed in 2015 caused much earlier lake ice-out throughout Arctic Alaska, thus providing perfect conditions to test these hypotheses concerning differential lake hydrologic responses.