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Seasonal overturn and stratification changes drive deep-water warming in one of Earth’s largest lakes.

CSS Publication Number
Full Publication Date
March 16, 2021

Most of Earth’s fresh surface water is consolidated in just a few of its largest lakes, and because of their unique response to environmental conditions, lakes have been identified as climate change sentinels. While the response of lake surface water temperatures to climate change is well documented from satellite and summer in situ measurements, our understanding of how water temperatures in large lakes are responding at depth is limited, as few large lakes have detailed long-term subsurface observations. We present an analysis of three decades of high frequency (3-hourly and hourly) subsurface water temperature data from Lake Michigan. This unique data set reveals that deep water temperatures are rising in the winter and provides precise measurements of the timing of fall overturn, the point of minimum temperature, and the duration of the winter cooling period. Relationships from the data show a shortened winter season results in higher subsurface temperatures and earlier onset of summer stratification. Shifts in the thermal regimes of large lakes will have profound impacts on the ecosystems of the world’s surface freshwater.

Craig A. Stow
Eric J. Anderson
Kyle Beadle
Lacey A. Mason
Michael J. McCormick
Nathan Hawley
Song S. Qian
Stephen A. Constant
Steven A. Ruberg
Research Areas
Urban Systems and Built Environment
Water Resources
Publication Type
Journal Article
Digital Object Identifier
Full Citation
Anderson, Eric J., Craig A. Stow, Andrew D. Gronewold, Lacey A. Mason, Michael J. McCormick, Song S. Qian, Steven A. Ruberg, Kyle Beadle, Stephen A. Constant, Nathan Hawley. (2021) “Seasonal overturn and stratification changes drive deep-water warming in one of Earth’s largest lakes.” Nature Communications 12(1688): 1-9.