What? A Climate Metric We Can Measure?

Get out your almanacs. Discovery has an article about how “climate change is warming lakes even faster than the atmosphere or oceans, and it could pose a significant future threat to the habitats for fish and other aquatic animals, as well as drinking water for millions of people.”

They cite a new study, “published in Geophysical Research Letters, (that) shows that lakes are warming at an average of 0.61 degrees Fahrenheit each decade. Over the next century, it could be enough to increase algal blooms by 20 percent, including a 5 percent boost in toxic blooms.”

The study focused upon 236 lakes, which contain more than half of the world’s freshwater supply. They were monitored over a 25-year period.

What’s most interesting to me about this study is that it introduces a metric that is fairly easy to measure, has  a long history and is easily comprehended.

Lakes in the Northern Hemisphere freeze over in the winter and melt in the spring. By measuring the dates when those two events occur, we can get an idea about warming (assuming you factor in the normal cycle of precession of the seasons).

Temperatures can be measured. Counts of wildfowl and fish can be done. Heck, most of this is already being done.

We already know that whatever global warming there is, is felt most strongly in the Northern Hemisphere. But rather than do gross guesstimates of ice extent and volume in the Arctic or gravity mismeasurements of the Greenland Ice Cap, here is an opportunity to monitor something well within our grasp.

It might be more useful.

frozen lake


9 responses to “What? A Climate Metric We Can Measure?

  1. Lakes are relatively small water bodies. So they should have a temperature change equivalent to the land surface, cushioned by water’s larger heat capacity.

    Let me ask you, why can’t they launch two dozen satellites in geo stationary orbits and two dozen in high polar orbits, and measure incoming and outgoing radiation across the full spectrum? One would think governments trying to spend a trillion wazzokis building solar panels and wind turbines would have the common sense to measure the actual forcing with a set of satellites.

    I don’t buy the “it’s not accurate enough excuse”. Put $10 billion budget into it, and the data will come.

  2. Why measure lakes? Why not measure ground temperature? It is far more reliable.

    Ice in and ice out days are more determined by wind and snow cover than by small fluctuations in temperature. Any wise Minnesotan knows not to step out on a lake, even when the temperature is -30F, if the snow came early and deep.

    Any farmer around here knows all about tiling systems and how they quickly move water off the land and carry fertilizer and chemicals into the lakes – these factors dramatically impact water clarity which is a major factor in temperature.

    On the other hand, putting a thermometer down a well is not all that difficult and it will give you a very accurate reading of the average local temperature and not one subject to variables in wind, water condition, cloud cover and local drainage policies.

    According to Minnesota Statute 1303.1600, a builder in Almost Iowa (Zone 2) must place footings below three and a half feet which is the frost depth, I will begin to take climate alarmism seriously when the state adjusts that law.

    • Do you mean my idea is not world shatteringly brilliant? Arrrrggggh!

      • Consider me mortified, if I allowed satire to whiz over my head unnoticed.

        Given that say-anything is the norm for climate communication, satire is all too often hard to pick up on.

    • Almost Iowa,

      “Why measure lakes? Why not measure ground temperature? It is far more reliable. ”

      Reliable is not the objective. A spectacular (i.e., scary) result that will get a lot of attention is the objective.

  3. I was under the impression that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere warmed the atmosphere, and then warming occurred in lakes, land, oceans (what did I leave out?). CO2 is sneakier than I thought, diving directly into lakes, dragging warming with it. It is a travesty, Trenberth.

  4. The metric that is best is overall climate manifestations: drought trends, flood trends, storms trends, global ice, etc.
    They are yielding inconvenient results and so are dismissed or obfuscated.

  5. One can add more to ground temperatures than what Almost Iowa wrote. In general terms, the temperature at 1m depth is the average temperature over the last year, while at a bit deeper (I think about 5m) it is what it was about 100 years ago

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