Impacts of extreme 2013-2014 winter conditions on Lake Michigan's fall heat content, surface temperature, and evaporation

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Abstract

Since the late 1990s, the Laurentian Great Lakes have experienced persistent low water levels and above average over-lake evaporation rates. During the winter of 2013-2014, the lakes endured the most persistent, lowest temperatures and highest ice cover in recent history, fostering speculation that over-lake evaporation rates might decrease and that water levels might rise. To address this speculation, we examined interseasonal relationships in Lake Michigan's thermal regime. We find pronounced relationships between winter conditions and subsequent fall heat content, modest relationships with fall surface temperature, but essentially no correlation with fall evaporation rates. Our findings suggest that the extreme winter conditions of 2013-2014 may have induced a shift in Lake Michigan's thermal regime and that this shift coincides with a recent (and ongoing) rise in Great Lakes water levels. If the shift persists, it could (assuming precipitation rates remain relatively constant) represent a return to thermal and hydrologic conditions not observed on Lake Michigan in over 15years. Key Points Lake Michigan has been in an altered thermal regime since the late 1990s The 2013-2014 winter may return Lake Michigan to pre-1998 thermal conditions Hydrological impacts of the 2013-2014 cold winter remain unclear

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Gronewold, A. D., Anderson, E. J., Lofgren, B., Blanken, P. D., Wang, J., Smith, J., … Bratton, J. (2015). Impacts of extreme 2013-2014 winter conditions on Lake Michigan’s fall heat content, surface temperature, and evaporation. Geophysical Research Letters, 42(9), 3364–3370. https://doi.org/10.1002/2015GL063799

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