The Role of Northern Lakes in a Regional Energy Balance Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Abstract There are many lakes of widely varying morphometry in northern latitudes. For this study region, in the central Mackenzie River valley of western Canada, lakes make up 37% of the landscape. The nonlake components of the landscape are divided into uplands (55%) and wetlands (8%). With such abundance, lakes are important features that can influence the regional climate. This paper examines the role of lakes in the regional surface energy and water balance and evaluates the links to the frequency–size distribution of lakes. The primary purpose is to examine how the surface energy balance may influence regional climate and weather. Lakes are characterized by both the magnitude and temporal behavior of their surface energy balances during the ice-free period. The impacts of combinations of various-size lakes and land–lake distributions on regional energy balances and evaporation cycles are presented. Net radiation is substantially greater over all water-dominated surfaces compared with uplands. The seasonal heat storage increases with lake size. Medium and large lakes are slow to warm in summer. Their large cumulative heat storage, near summer’s end, fuels large convective heat fluxes in fall and early winter. The evaporation season for upland, wetland, and small, medium, and large lakes lasts for 19, 21, 22, 24, and 30 weeks, respectively. The regional effects of combinations of surface types are derived. The region is initially treated as comprising uplands only. The influences of wetland, small, medium, and large lakes are added sequentially, to build up to the energy budget of the actual landscape. The addition of lakes increases the regional net radiation, the maximum regional subsurface heat storage, and evaporation substantially. Evaporation decreases slightly in the first half of the season but experiences a large enhancement in the second half. The sensible heat flux is reduced substantially in the first half of the season, but changes little in the second half. For energy budget modeling the representation of lake size is important. Net radiation is fairly independent of size. An equal area of medium and large lakes, compared with small lakes, yields substantially larger latent heat fluxes and lesser sensible heat fluxes. Lake size also creates large differences in regional flux magnitudes, especially in the spring and fall periods.


  • Rouse, Wayne Robert
  • Oswald, Claire J
  • Binyamin, Jacqueline
  • Spence, Christopher
  • Schertzer, William M
  • Blanken, Peter D
  • Bussières, Normand
  • Duguay, Claude R

publication date

  • June 1, 2005