Fishing activities

Activities on frozen lakes may no longer be safe as global warming persists, study finds

According to a recent study, as global warming progresses, activities such as driving and ice skating on frozen lakes may not be as safe as they used to be.

The reality TV show “Ice Road Truckers” attracted millions of viewers worldwide as it required skilled truck drivers to overcome nerve-wracking tasks like hauling heavy supplies and cargo across the frozen lakes of the High Arctic.

An international team of lake and climate scientists recently published a study which suggests that it may soon no longer be necessary to drive large trucks on frozen lakes.

The study identifies the levels of warming at which dangerous ice conditions for the region will be reached in terms of transport and leisure activities, such as ice fishing or ice skating. It is based on one of the most comprehensive future climate change model simulations to date. The simulation model used for the study is the second version of the Community Earth System Model – Large Ensemble.

Global warming

The clear conclusion of the study is that global warming will significantly reduce the safety of lake ice. Indigenous communities in the Arctic that rely on ice roads for quick and reasonably priced transportation and supplies during the winter will likely be affected, along with local economies. Future thinning ice conditions also pose a threat to distinctive lake ecosystems that have evolved over thousands of years to withstand repeated frozen lake conditions.

Dr Lei Huang, a former postdoctoral researcher at the IBS Center for Climate Physics (ICCP) in Busan, South Korea, said their findings show that, depending on the level of future warming, the ice safety period for next 80 years will be cut by 2-3 weeks. The number of days with safe ice conditions will decrease by more than 90% in areas where frozen lakes are used as ice roads for transporting bulky goods and supplies. Huang is the corresponding author of the study.

Read also: Discovery of giant viruses infecting microscopic algae in a rare arctic lake

Dr Iestyn Woolway from Bangor University in the UK pointed out that their computer model simulations predict a significant drop in safe ice conditions sufficient for recreational activities in many densely populated mid-latitude regions. Woolway added that more than 60% of the time that safe lake ice lasts can already be lost with a warming of 1.5C above early 20th century conditions. Local communities that depend on the ice recreation industry will suffer. Woolway is the first author of the study.

Dr Sapna Sharma of York University in Canada added that with the planet now warming by 1.2°C since industrialization began, now is the time for affected communities to put in place implement effective regional adaptation strategies to reduce economic losses and prevent deaths. Sharma is one of the lead authors of the study, reports Phys Org.

frozen lakes

At high latitudes, frozen lakes are frequently used for wheeled transport. These transportation routes are hazardous due to recent decreases in the length of time lakes are frozen and increased variability in freeze-up and break-up dates.

Related Article: Relentless Climate Change: Even Arctic Lakes Are Drying Up

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