Past and Future Changes in Arctic Lake and River Ice

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Paleolimnological evidence from some Arctic lakes suggests that longer ice-free seasons have been experienced since the beginning of the nineteenth century. It has been inferred from some additional records that many Arctic lakes may have crossed an important ecological threshold as a result of recent warming. In the instrumental record, long-term trends exhibit increasingly later freeze-ups and earlier break-ups, closely corresponding to increasing air temperature trends, but with greater sensitivity at the more temperate latitudes. Broad spatial patterns in these trends are also related to major atmospheric circulation patterns. Future projections of lake ice indicate increasingly later freeze-ups and earlier break-ups, decreasing ice thickness, and changes in cover composition, particularly white-ice. For rivers, projected future decreases in south to north air-temperature gradients suggest that the severity of ice-jam flooding may be reduced but this could be mitigated by changes in the magnitude of spring snowmelt.


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