The timing of ice-out in high latitudes is a fundamental threshold for lake ecosystems and an indicator of climate change. In lake-rich regions, the loss of ice cover also plays a key role in landscape and climatic processes. Thus, there is a need to understand lake ice phenology at multiple scales. In this study, we observed ice-out timing on 55 large lakes in 11 lake districts across Alaska from 2007 to 2012 using satellite imagery. Sensor networks in two lake districts validated satellite observations and provided comparison with smaller lakes. Over this 6 yr period, the mean lake ice-out for all lakes was 27 May and ranged from 07 May in Kenai to 06 July in Arctic Coastal Plain lake districts with relatively low inter-annual variability. Approximately 80% of the variation in ice-out timing was explained by the date of 0°C air temperature isotherm and lake area. Shoreline irregularity, watershed area, and river connectivity explained additional variation in some districts. Coherence in ice-out timing within the lakes of each district was consistently strong over this 6 yr period, ranging from r-values of 0.5 to 0.9. Inter-district analysis of coherence also showed synchronous ice-out patterns with the exception of the two arctic coastal districts where ice-out occurs later (June–July) and climatology is sea-ice influenced. These patterns of lake ice phenology provide a spatially extensive baseline describing short-term temporal variability, which will help decipher longer term trends in ice phenology and aid in representing the role of lake ice in land and climate models in northern landscapes.
Additional publication details
Recent lake ice-out phenology within and among lake districts of Alaska, U.S.A.
Limnology and Oceanography
Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceonography