Late-summer thermal regime of a small proglacial lake


R. D. Moore, Department of Geography and Department of Forest Resources Management, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z2.



This study was motivated by an interest in understanding the potential effects of climate change and glacier retreat on late summer water temperatures in alpine areas. Fieldwork was carried out between July and September 2007 at Place Lake, located below Place Glacier in the southern Coast Mountains of British Columbia. Place Lake has an area of 72 000 m2, a single inlet and outlet channel, and an approximate residence time of 4 days. Warming between the inlet and outlet of the lake ranged up to 3 °C and averaged 1.8 °C, which exceeds the amount of warming that occurred over the 1 km reach of Place Creek between the lake outlet and tree line. Over a 23-day period, net radiation totalled about 210 MJ·m–2, with sensible heat flux adding another 56 MJ m-2. The latent heat flux consumed about 8% of the surface heat input. The dominant heat sink was the net horizontal advection associated with lake inflow and outflow. Early in the study period, temperatures between the surface and 6-m depth were dominantly at or above 4 °C and were generally neutral to thermally stable, whereas temperatures decreased with depth below 6 m and exhibited irregular sub-diurnal variations. The maximum outflow temperature of almost 7 °C occurred in this period. We hypothesize that turbidity currents associated with cold, sediment-laden glacier discharge formed an underflow and influenced temperatures in the deeper portion of the lake but did not mix with the upper layers. Later in the study period, the lake was dominantly well mixed with some near-surface stability associated with nocturnal cooling. Further research is required to examine the combined effects of sediment concentrations and thermal processes on mixing in small proglacial lakes to make projections of the consequences of glacier retreat on alpine lake and stream temperatures. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.