Declining Sea Ice Extent Links Early Winter Climate to Changing Arctic Lakes

Tuesday, 15 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Vladimir A Alexeev1, Christopher D Arp1 and Benjamin Jones2, (1)University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, United States, (2)USGS Alaska Science Center, Anchorage, AK, United States
Lakes on the Alaskan North Slope regulate surface energy balance and interactions with permafrost as well as providing important habitat. Winter lake ice regimes (floating-ice or bedfast-ice conditions) determine whether lakes develop and maintain taliks and can support overwintering fish habitat. Lake ice thickness is a key variable determining whether a lake has a bedfast or floating-ice regime. Recent observations suggest a trend towards more lakes with floating-ice conditions due to thinner ice growth, but the broader scale associated climate conditions driving these regime shift are less certain. This study finds that the changing arctic summer/fall sea ice conditions might be affecting lake ice thickness on the North Slope. Late ocean freeze-up near the Alaskan coast leads to warmer weather and more snowfall in the early winter. Warmer early winters and thicker snowpack result in thinner lake ice the following winter thus potentially developing more ice-floating lakes before the start of the summer. Experiments with a regional atmospheric model WRF for two years with very different sea ice conditions indicate that the extent of open water next to the North Slope is a crucial factor for developing thicker snowpack, also warmer air temperature in early winter.