Widespread loss of lake ice around the Northern Hemisphere in a warming world

Nature Climate Change
By: , and 



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.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Widespread loss of lake ice around the Northern Hemisphere in a warming world
Series title Nature Climate Change
DOI 10.1038/s41558-018-0393-5
Volume 9
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Nature
Contributing office(s) Upper Midwest Water Science Center
Description 5 p.
First page 227
Last page 231
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