News

Northern lakes at risk of losing ice cover permanently, impacting drinking water

Northern lakes at risk of losing ice cover permanently, impacting drinking water
Science
Close to 5,700 lakes in the Northern Hemisphere may permanently lose ice cover this century, 179 of them in the next decade, at current greenhouse gas emissions, despite a possible polar vortex this year, researchers at York University have found.

advertisement

Those lakes include large bays in some of the deepest of the Great Lakes, such as Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, which could permanently become ice free by 2055 if nothing is done to curb greenhouse gas emissions or by 2085 with moderate changes.

Many of these lakes that are predicted to stop freezing over are near large human populations and are an important source of drinking water. A loss of ice could affect the quantity and quality of the water.

"We need ice on lakes to curtail and minimize evaporation rates in the winter," says lead researcher Sapna Sharma, an associate professor in the Faculty of Science. "Without ice cover, evaporation rates would increase, and water levels could decline. We would lose freshwater, which we need for drinking and everyday activities. Ice cover is extremely important both ecologically and socio-economically."

The researchers, including Postdoctoral Fellows Kevin Blagrave and Alessandro Filazzola, looked at 51,000 lakes in the Northern Hemisphere to forecast whether those lakes would become ice-free using annual winter temperature projections from 2020 to 2098 with 12 climate change scenarios.

Video: https://youtu.be/Y7JSfTJzBFQ

"With increased greenhouse gas emissions, we expect greater increases in winter air temperatures, which are expected to increase much more than summer temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere," says Filazzola. "It s this warming of a couple of degrees, as result of carbon emissions, that will cause the loss of lake ice into the future."

The most at-risk lakes are those in southern and coastal regions of the Northern Hemisphere, some of which are amongst the largest lakes in the world.

"It is quite dramatic for some of these lakes, that froze often, but within a few decades they stop freezing indefinitely," says Filazzola. "It s pretty shocking to imagine a lake that would normally freeze no longer doing so."

The researchers found that when the air temperature was above -0.9 C, most lakes no longer froze. For shallow lakes, the air temperature could be zero or a bit above. Larger and deeper lakes need colder temperatures to freeze -- some as cold as -4.8 C ? than shallow lakes.

"Ice cover is also important for maintaining the quality of our freshwater," says Sharma. "In years where there isn t ice cover or when the ice melts earlier, there have been observations that water temperatures are warmer in the summer, there are increased rates of primary production, plant growth, as well as an increased presence of algal blooms, some of which may be toxic."

To preserve lake ice cover, more aggressive measures to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions are needed now, says Sharma. "I was surprised at how quickly we may see this transition to permanent loss of ice cover in lakes that had previously frozen near consistently for centuries."

Materials provided by York University . Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

York University. "Northern lakes at risk of losing ice cover permanently, impacting drinking water." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 January 2021. .

York University. "Northern lakes at risk of losing ice cover permanently, impacting drinking water." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/01/210113120714.htm (accessed January 13, 2021).

advertisement

1

Oct. 9, 2020 — Meltwater lakes that form at glacier margins cause ice to recede much further and faster compared to glaciers that terminate on land, according to a new study. But the effects of these glacial lakes ...

Oct. 6, 2020 — Warmer winters due to climate change are causing lakes in the Northern Hemisphere to experience more ice-free years, according to a new study. Researchers recently analyzed nearly 80 years of lake ...

Mar. 26, 2020 — Shorter and warmer winters lead to an increase in emissions of methane from northern lakes, according to a new study. Longer ice-free periods contribute to increased methane emissions. In Finland, ...

Oct. 23, 2017 — Saline lakes around the world are shrinking in size at alarming rates. But what -- or who -- is to blame? Lakes like Utah s Great Salt Lake, Asia s Aral Sea, the Dead Sea in Jordan and ...
Read more on sciencedaily.com
News Topics :
Similar Articles :
Canada
Canadian researchers are concerned about the impact climate change will have on drinking water quality, as warmer temperatures lead to less ice cover on lakes. The paper, published in Geophysical...
Top Stories
TORONTO Within this century, nearly 5, 700 lakes in the Northern Hemisphere could permanently lose ice cover in winters due to global warming including parts of the...
Top Stories
TORONTO Research out of Ontarios York University suggests more and more lakes are not freezing over during the winter months, which can harm the local ecosystem and...
Science
The researchers involved say the disappearance will have significant implications for millions of people living near these bodies of water. It could also pose a threat to supplies of drinking...
Science
Global lake evaporation will increase 16 percent by the end of the century as a consequence of climate change, a new Yale study finds. But the specific mechanisms that will...