Widespread loss of lake ice around the Northern Hemisphere in a warming world
Ice provides a range of ecosystem services—including fish harvest, cultural traditions, transportation, recreation and regulation of the hydrological cycle—to more than half of the world’s 117 million lakes. One of the earliest observed impacts of climatic warming has been the loss of freshwater ice, with corresponding climatic and ecological consequences. However, while trends in ice cover phenology have been widely documented, a comprehensive large-scale assessment of lake ice loss is absent. Here, using observations from 513 lakes around the Northern Hemisphere, we identify lakes vulnerable to ice-free winters. Our analyses reveal the importance of air temperature, lake depth, elevation and shoreline complexity in governing ice cover. We estimate that 14,800 lakes currently experience intermittent winter ice cover, increasing to 35,300 and 230,400 at 2 and 8 °C, respectively, and impacting up to 394 and 656 million people. Our study illustrates that an extensive loss of lake ice will occur within the next generation, stressing the importance of climate mitigation strategies to preserve ecosystem structure and function, as well as local winter cultural heritage.
|Widespread loss of lake ice around the Northern Hemisphere in a warming world
|Nature Climate Change
|Upper Midwest Water Science Center
|Google Analytic Metrics