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

TitleWidespread loss of lake ice around the Northern Hemisphere in a warming world
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsSharma, Sapna, Blagrave Kevin, Magnuson John J., O’Reilly Catherine M., Oliver Samantha, Batt Ryan D., Magee Madeline R., Straile Dietmar, Weyhenmeyer Gesa A., Winslow Luke, and R. Woolway Iestyn
JournalNature Climate Change
Pagination227 - 231
Date PublishedJan-03-2019
Keywordsclimate change, cultural impacts, Ice, Indigenous Communities, Warming winters

Ice provides a range of ecosystem services—including fish harvest1, cultural traditions2, transportation3, recreation4 and regulation of the hydrological cycle5—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 ice6, with corresponding climatic and ecological consequences7. However, while trends in ice cover phenology have been widely documented2,6,8,9, 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.

Short TitleNat. Clim. Chang.