U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Changes in Boreal Lakes have Broad Climate Impacts
Published: February 15, 2012
Posted: August 21, 2012

Climate change may alter lake area and cause other changes in high-latitude, terrestrial-surface properties, which, in turn, affect climate. BER scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory used a lake model, recently developed at LBNL, in the Community Land Model (CLM4-LISSS) and coupled into the Community Earth System Model. This new version corrected a previous underestimation of lake area under present conditions and predicted spring cooling and fall warming of 1°C throughout large areas of Canada and the United States. The predicted diurnal temperature range decreased by up to 4°C in the summer, bringing predictions closer to observations. A projected loss of lakes in some permafrost regions under doubled CO2 slightly enhanced net daytime warming in those regions. Correcting the under-estimation of mainly boreal lake area caused changes in distant Southern Ocean winds, which play an important role in the carbon cycle driving CO2 upwelling from the deep ocean into the atmosphere. These changes were also analyzed in an idealized ocean-only "aqua-planet" model with prescribed sea-surface temperatures for which relatively small (2°C) decreases in high-latitude surface temperatures caused shifts in the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone and Southern Ocean winds. The improved CLM lake model represents an important step forward in simulating potential climate feedbacks in high-latitude systems. In addition to atmospheric interactions, changes in inundation and thermokarst lakes can lead to potentially important changes in surface greenhouse gas emissions.

References: Subin, Z. M., L. N. Murphy, F. Li, C. Bonfils, and W. J. Riley. 2012. "Boreal Lakes Moderate Seasonal and Diurnal Temperature Variation and Perturb Atmospheric Circulation: Analyses in CESM1," Tellus A 64, 15639. DOI: 10.3402/tellusa.v64i0.15639. (Reference link)

Subin, Z. M., W. J. Riley, and D. Mironov. 2012. "An Improved Lake Model for Climate Simulations: Model Structure, Evaluation, and Sensitivity Analyses in CESM1," Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems 4, M02001. DOI: 10.1029/2011MS000072. (Reference link)

Contact: Renu Joseph, SC-23.1, (301) 903-9237, Dorothy Koch, SC-23.1, (301) 903-0105
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling
  • Research Area: Carbon Cycle, Nutrient Cycling

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER


BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

May 10, 2019
Quantifying Decision Uncertainty in Water Management via a Coupled Agent-Based Model
Considering risk perception can improve the representation of human decision-making processes in age [more...]

May 09, 2019
Projecting Global Urban Area Growth Through 2100 Based on Historical Time Series Data and Future Scenarios
Study provides country-specific urban area growth models and the first dataset on country-level urba [more...]

May 05, 2019
Calibrating Building Energy Demand Models to Refine Long-Term Energy Planning
A new, flexible calibration approach improved model accuracy in capturing year-to-year changes in bu [more...]

May 03, 2019
Calibration and Uncertainty Analysis of Demeter for Better Downscaling of Global Land Use and Land Cover Projections
Researchers improved the Demeter model’s performance by calibrating key parameters and establi [more...]

Apr 22, 2019
Representation of U.S. Warm Temperature Extremes in Global Climate Model Ensembles
Representation of warm temperature events varies considerably among global climate models, which has [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)