A thermodynamic model of freshwater Antarctic lake ice

Tim Reid, Neil Crout

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Antarctic lakes with simple plankton ecosystems are believed to be sensitive biological indicators of climate change. Models of the physical environment, in particular the ice layer, support understanding of how the ecosystems respond to meteorological variables. This paper describes how data from a previously reported automatic measuring probe and meteorological data from Davis station were used to develop a detailed thermodynamic model of the ice layer on Crooked Lake, one of the largest and deepest freshwater lakes in Antarctica. The general model structure is similar to a previously reported model of sea ice but with modifications specific to the Antarctic freshwater lake case informed by the data. The model inputs are atmospheric variables as well as water temperature, ice albedo and the radiation extinction coefficient for the ice. Heat and radiation fluxes at the ice-air and ice-water boundaries are calculated using equations chosen for their suitability for the Antarctic. In the case of shortwave radiation, equations were fitted to data from the automatic probe. Using the heat fluxes to establish boundary conditions, and incorporating the known thermodynamic properties of ice, the temperature profile within the ice and the resulting growth and melt of the ice can be calculated. The model uses a largely mechanistic approach, with most equations taken from established thermodynamic theories or empirical studies and only one adjustable parameter related to the sensible heat flux from the water, which is not easily calculated from the available data. It was found to accurately reproduce ice temperature and ice thickness data for the year 2003, with r(2) = 0.89, n = 2005. Finally, the model was simplified to run with air temperature as the only input variable and was shown to perform well-this suggests that freshwater lake ice is affected more by air temperature than any other variable, and is therefore a useful indicator of climate change in its own right. (C) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-241
Number of pages11
JournalEcological Modelling
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jan 2008


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