Articles | Volume 5, issue 4
The Cryosphere, 5, 869–892, 2011
The Cryosphere, 5, 869–892, 2011

Research article 20 Oct 2011

Research article | 20 Oct 2011

The fate of lake ice in the North American Arctic

L. C. Brown and C. R. Duguay L. C. Brown and C. R. Duguay
  • Department of Geography and Environmental Management and Interdisciplinary Centre for Climate Change (IC3), University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, N2L 3G1, Canada

Abstract. Lakes comprise a large portion of the surface cover in northern North America, forming an important part of the cryosphere. The timing of lake ice phenological events (e.g. break-up/freeze-up) is a useful indicator of climate variability and change, which is of particular relevance in environmentally sensitive areas such as the North American Arctic. Further alterations to the present day ice regime could result in major ecosystem changes, such as species shifts and the disappearance of perennial ice cover. The Canadian Lake Ice Model (CLIMo) was used to simulate lake ice phenology across the North American Arctic from 1961–2100 using two climate scenarios produced by the Canadian Regional Climate Model (CRCM). Results from the 1961–1990 time period were validated using 15 locations across the Canadian Arctic, with both in situ ice cover observations from the Canadian Ice Database as well as additional ice cover simulations using nearby weather station data. Projected changes to the ice cover using the 30-year mean data between 1961–1990 and 2041–2070 suggest a shift in break-up and freeze-up dates for most areas ranging from 10–25 days earlier (break-up) and 0–15 days later (freeze-up). The resulting ice cover durations show mainly a 10–25 day reduction for the shallower lakes (3 and 10 m) and 10–30 day reduction for the deeper lakes (30 m). More extreme reductions of up to 60 days (excluding the loss of perennial ice cover) were shown in the coastal regions compared to the interior continental areas. The mean maximum ice thickness was shown to decrease by 10–60 cm with no snow cover and 5–50 cm with snow cover on the ice. Snow ice was also shown to increase through most of the study area with the exception of the Alaskan coastal areas.