Articles | Volume 10, issue 3
The Cryosphere, 10, 941–960, 2016
The Cryosphere, 10, 941–960, 2016

Research article 10 May 2016

Research article | 10 May 2016

Evidence of recent changes in the ice regime of lakes in the Canadian High Arctic from spaceborne satellite observations

Cristina M. Surdu1, Claude R. Duguay2, and Diego Fernández Prieto1 Cristina M. Surdu et al.
  • 1Earth Observation Science, Applications and Future Technologies Department, European Space Agency (ESA), European Space Research Institute (ESRIN), Frascati (Rome), Italy
  • 2Department of Geography and Environmental Management and Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Abstract. Arctic lakes, through their ice cover phenology, are a key indicator of climatic changes that the high-latitude environment is experiencing. In the case of lakes in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (CAA), many of which are ice covered more than 10 months per year, warmer temperatures could result in ice regime shifts. Within the dominant polar-desert environment, small local warmer areas have been identified. These relatively small regions – polar oases – with longer growing seasons and greater biological productivity and diversity are secluded from the surrounding barren polar desert. The ice regimes of 11 lakes located in both polar-desert and polar-oasis environments, with surface areas between 4 and 542 km2, many of unknown bathymetry, were documented. In order to investigate the response of ice cover of lakes in the CAA to climate conditions during recent years, a 15-year time series (1997–2011) of RADARSAT-1/2 ScanSAR Wide Swath, ASAR Wide Swath, and Landsat acquisitions were analyzed. Results show that melt onset occurred earlier for all observed lakes. With the exception of Lower Murray Lake, all lakes experienced earlier summer ice minimum and water-clear-of-ice (WCI) dates, with greater changes being observed for polar-oasis lakes (9–24 days earlier WCI dates for lakes located in polar oases and 2–20 days earlier WCI dates for polar-desert lakes). Additionally, results suggest that some lakes may be transitioning from a perennial/multiyear to a seasonal ice regime, with only a few lakes maintaining a multiyear ice cover on occasional years. Aside Lake Hazen and Murray Lakes, which preserved their ice cover during the summer of 2009, no residual ice was observed on any of the other lakes from 2007 to 2011.