Climatic Change

, Volume 112, Issue 2, pp 299–323 | Cite as

Extreme events, trends, and variability in Northern Hemisphere lake-ice phenology (1855–2005)

  • Barbara J. BensonEmail author
  • John J. Magnuson
  • Olaf P. Jensen
  • Virginia M. Card
  • Glenn Hodgkins
  • Johanna Korhonen
  • David M. Livingstone
  • Kenton M. Stewart
  • Gesa A. Weyhenmeyer
  • Nick G. Granin


Often extreme events, more than changes in mean conditions, have the greatest impact on the environment and human well-being. Here we examine changes in the occurrence of extremes in the timing of the annual formation and disappearance of lake ice in the Northern Hemisphere. Both changes in the mean condition and in variability around the mean condition can alter the probability of extreme events. Using long-term ice phenology data covering two periods 1855–6 to 2004–5 and 1905–6 to 2004–5 for a total of 75 lakes, we examined patterns in long-term trends and variability in the context of understanding the occurrence of extreme events. We also examined patterns in trends for a 30-year subset (1975–6 to 2004–5) of the 100-year data set. Trends for ice variables in the recent 30-year period were steeper than those in the 100- and 150-year periods, and trends in the 150-year period were steeper than in the 100-year period. Ranges of rates of change (days per decade) among time periods based on linear regression were 0.3−1.6 later for freeze, 0.5−1.9 earlier for breakup, and 0.7−4.3 shorter for duration. Mostly, standard deviation did not change, or it decreased in the 150-year and 100-year periods. During the recent 50-year period, standard deviation calculated in 10-year windows increased for all ice measures. For the 150-year and 100-year periods changes in the mean ice dates rather than changes in variability most strongly influenced the significant increases in the frequency of extreme lake ice events associated with warmer conditions and decreases in the frequency of extreme events associated with cooler conditions.


Extreme Event Breakup Date Freeze Date Early Breakup Late Freeze 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We gratefully acknowledge all the colleagues who have contributed to the lake ice phenology database and the National Snow and Ice Data Center for providing a permanent repository for the data. The Swedish ice data were kindly contributed from the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute. The land surface air temperature data were generated by the Climate Research Unit and the Hadley Centre. The North Temperate Lakes LTER database manager, David Balsiger, provided crucial support in maintaining and updating the database. The work and associated workshops were supported by the US National Science Foundation (DEB-9527669, DEB-0217533, DEB-0822700).

Supplementary material

10584_2011_212_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1000 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 999 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara J. Benson
    • 1
    Email author
  • John J. Magnuson
    • 1
  • Olaf P. Jensen
    • 2
  • Virginia M. Card
    • 3
  • Glenn Hodgkins
    • 4
  • Johanna Korhonen
    • 5
  • David M. Livingstone
    • 6
  • Kenton M. Stewart
    • 7
  • Gesa A. Weyhenmeyer
    • 8
    • 9
  • Nick G. Granin
    • 10
  1. 1.Center for LimnologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Marine and Coastal SciencesRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA
  3. 3.College of Arts and SciencesMetropolitan State UniversitySt. PaulUSA
  4. 4.U.S. Geological Survey, Maine Water Science CenterAugustaUSA
  5. 5.Finnish Environment InstituteFreshwater CentreHelsinkiFinland
  6. 6.Department of Water Resources and Drinking WaterEawag, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and TechnologyDübendorfSwitzerland
  7. 7.Department of Biological ScienceState University of New York at BuffaloBuffaloUSA
  8. 8.Department of Ecology and Genetics/LimnologyUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden
  9. 9.Department of Aquatic Sciences and AssessmentSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUppsalaSweden
  10. 10.Limnological InstituteIrkutskRussia

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