Monday, March 30, 2009

Going, going...gone?

It's ice-out season - finally, after a long winter. The US Geological Survey has studied ice-out timing for many lakes across New England and they have a site where you can click a lake to see its historical record of ice out dates, here. Today is Julian Day 89 of 2009; how is a lake in your area doing compared to the historical record?

Who cares about ice out? Well, it turns out that the timing of spring melt tells us a lot about changes in the environment. USGS researchers based here in Maine report that the timing of spring melt has been a bit earlier over the past 150 years (summary here). The researchers suggest that earlier ice-out is an indicator of climate change, inferring that increased air temperature is responsible for earlier melt. A hundred and fifty years. Now that's some pretty long-term monitoring - which is just what we need to find out more about the subtle changes in the environment that can add up to patterns we can see.

Maine lakes have been around for a long, long time and they provide us with lots of information about long-term changes. A UMaine scientist was part of a recent paper that noted how information about lake sediments and water level data make lakes "Sentinels of Change" worldwide.

What's your local sentinel doing right now? Is the ice around the margins disappearing? Is mud season here already?

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