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Simulating Impacts of Precipitation on Ice Cover and Surface Water Temperature Across Large Lakes

CSS Publication Number
Full Publication Date
May 6, 2020

Precipitation impacts on ice cover and water temperature in the Laurentian Great Lakes were examined using state-of-the-art coupled ice-hydrodynamic models. Numerical experiments were conducted for the recent anomalously cold (2014–2015) and warm (2015–2016) winters that were accompanied by high and low ice coverage over the lakes, respectively. The results of numerical experiments showed that snow cover on the ice, which is the manifestation of winter precipitation, reduced the total ice volume (or mean ice thickness) in all of the Great Lakes, shortened the ice duration, and allowed earlier warming of water surface. The reduced ice volume was due to the thermal insulation of snow cover. The surface albedo was also increased by snow cover, but its impact on the delay the melting of ice was overcome by the thermal insulation effect. During major snowstorms, snowfall over the open lake caused notable cooling of the water surface due to latent heat absorption. Overall, the sensible heat flux from rain in spring and summer was found to have negligible impacts on the water surface temperature. Although uncertainties remain in overlake precipitation estimates and model's representation of snow on the ice, this study demonstrated that winter precipitation, particularly snowfall on the ice and water surfaces, is an important contributing factor in Great Lakes ice production and thermal conditions from late fall to spring.

A. Fujisaki-Manome
E. J. Anderson
J. A. Kessler
P. Y. Chu
J. Wang
Research Areas
Water Resources
Publication Type
Journal Article
Digital Object Identifier
Full Citation

Fujisaki-Manome, A., Anderson, E. J., Kessler, J. A., Chu, P. Y., Wang, J., & Gronewold, A. D. (2020). Simulating impacts of precipitation on ice cover and surface water temperature across large lakes. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 125, e2019JC015950. CSS20-69