Ice-Free Radiative Convection Drives Spring Mixing in a Large Lake

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In this work we highlight the importance of radiative convection as a mixing mechanism in a large, ice-free lake (Lake Michigan, USA), where solar heating of waters below the temperature of maximum density drives vertical convection during the vernal turnover. Measurements taken over a 2-week period at a 55-m deep site demonstrate the ability of radiative convection to mix the entire water column. Observations show a diurnal cycle in which solar heating drives a steady deepening of the convective mixed layer throughout the day (dHCML/dt = 12.8 m/hr), followed by surface-cooling-induced restratification during the night. Radiative convection is linked to a dramatic enhancement in turbulence characteristics, including both turbulent kinetic energy dissipation (ϵ: 10−9–10−7 W/kg) and turbulent scalar diffusivity (Kz: 10−3–10−1 m2/s), suggesting that radiative convection plays a major role in driving vertical mixing throughout the water column during the isothermal spring.




Cannon, D. J., Troy, C. D., Liao, Q., & Bootsma, H. A. (2019). Ice-Free Radiative Convection Drives Spring Mixing in a Large Lake. Geophysical Research Letters, 46(12), 6811–6820.

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