The Influence of Large Lakes on Climate

Robert J. Liebermann, Department of Geography
University of Georgia, Athens, GA

     The influence of large water bodies such as oceans and seas on climatic patterns is an integral part of the world's weather and climate mechanism. It is the influence of the worlds oceans which is ultimately responsible for the climate which drives much of human economic activity such as agriculture, tourism, and forestry industries.

     The influence of smaller water bodies such as lakes and reservoirs is, albeit on a smaller scale, no less important to the climates of the areas concerned, and the presence of large lakes has a marked influence on micro and mesoclimate. Collectively, the study of the influence of lakes on climate may be called "limnoclimatology", and the effects themselves called "lake effects". The term limnoclimate was first proposed by the Soviet researcher Nikolai Ladeischikov in 1967 to refer to the climate which is influenced by lakes and reservoirs, and limnoclimatology is the study of this subject. Limnoclimate is used mainly in the Russian literature, while in North America, where there has been much study devoted to the influence of the Great Lakes on climate, the term lake effect is more commonly encountered, often referring to the climatic and meteorological influences of the Great Lakes limnoclimate.

     Lakes influence the climate of the surrounding area due to the following physical properties of water: thermal capacity, thermal conductivity, density differences with temperature variation, and the optical properties of transparency and reflectivity (albedo). Properties of the lakes themselves which affect the formation, regulation, and intensity of limnoclimates include the following: the thermal stratification (mictic) regime of the waters, the volume; depth; surface area; and shape of the lake, the directional orientation and presence of islands; peninsulas; and other landforms in the lake, altitude and latitude, formation; duration; and extent of ice cover in winter, surrounding vegetation patterns; topography; and relief, and distance from oceans and seas. Localized influences include shoreline morphology and vegetation types, the location and size of cities, and forest and agriculture patterns. The main control on climate surrounding large lakes, however, is the macroclimate, and all lake effects are simply various modifications of this.

     Together these properties control the heating and cooling rates of lakes, resulting in temperature contrasts between lake and land - the lakes being cooler in summer, and warmer in winter than the mainland. Major climatic parameters influenced by lakes include temperature (which is the driving force for most other limnoclimatic phenomena), precipitation, atmospheric moisture, wind, and various mesoscale severe weather events. The weather and climate of near-lake areas have, as a result, some aspects of a maritime climate, and some of a continental, but are certainly unlike either. For example, lake islands often have a greater annual range of temperature than most oceanic islands of similar latitudes, because of their continental location, while at the same time clearly different from the mainland.

     Limnoclimatic influence is variable. In general, the larger the lake, the greater the limnoclimatic effects, and limnoclimate is stronger in proximity to the lake. For example, areas near the Great Lakes of North America are excellent wine and fruit producing regions because of the amelioration on the mesoclimate by the lakes, while areas as little as 50 kilometers inland by may be unsuitable. The intensity of the climatic influence of the lakes is also controlled by the relief of the surrounding land. At Lake Superior, which has much lower relief than that of Baikal, the climatic influence along the shores is often most intense, and decreases over considerable distance inland. At Baikal, which is largely surrounded by mountains, the climatic influence near the shores is often greater than that at Lake Superior and, because of the isolation of mesoscale air masses, rapidly attenuates outside the mountain barrier.

     The influence of limnoclimate, therefore, is an important force differentiating the local natural and human landscape from other regions. Lake effects strongly influence many natural and human processes in their vicinity, including vegetation type and pattern, suitability for various agricultural products, population distribution, tourism, transportation, and numerous others, and thus are of major geographic significance where they occur.


Selected literature on limnoclimate:

Bellaire, F. R. (1965). The modification of warm air moving over cold water. pp. 249=256in: Publication No. 13, Great Lakes Research Division, The University of Michigan.

Cotton, W. R. (1990). Storms. Ft. Collins, CO: Aster Press, 158pp. [see Lake-Effect Storms, pp142-145]

Crowe, P. R. (1971). Concepts in Climatology. New York: St. Martinуs Press, 589pp.

Dericki, J. A. (1976). Hydrometerology: Climate and Hydrology of the Great Lakes. pp71-104 in: Great Lakes Basin Framework Study,1976.

Eichenlaub, V. L. (1979). Weather and Climate of the Great Lakes Region. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 335pp.

Eichenlaub, V. L. (1987). Lakes, effect on climate. in: The Encyclopedia of Climatology; Oliver, J. E., and R. W. Fairbridge, editors. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 986pp.

Eichenlaub, V. L., J. R. Harmon, F. V. Nurnburger, and H. L. Stolle (1988). The Climatological Atlas of Michigan. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1165pp.

Geiger. R., R. H. Aron, and P. Todhunter (1994). The Climate Near the Ground, fifth edition (pre-press beta version), unpaginated; approximately. 600pp.

Gentilli, J. (1967). Continentality. in: The Encyclopedia of Atmospheric Sciences and Astrogeology. Fairbridge, R. W. , editor. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 986pp.

Great Lakes Basin Framework Study. (1976). Appendix 4: Limnology of Lakes and Embayments. Great Lakes Basin Commission, 441pp.

Herdendorf, C. E. (1982). Large lakes of the world. Journal of Great Lakes Research 8(3): 379-412.

Keen, R. A. (1993). Michigan Weather. Helena, MT: American World and Geographic Publishing, 142pp.

Ladeischchikov, N. P. and V. A. Obolkin (1990). Climate and climatic resources of reservoirs. Arch. Hydrobiol. Beih. Ergebn. Limnol. 33: 689-693.

Leighly, J. (1942). Effects of the Great Lakes on the annual march of temperature in their vicinity. Papers of the Michigan Academy of Arts, Sciences and Letters 21: 377-414.

Knox, J. A. and S. A. Ackerman (199X). Teaching the Extratropical Cyclone with the Edmind Fitzgerald Storm. %th Symposium on Education Phillips, D. W. (1978). Environmental climatology of Lake Superior. Journal of Great Lakes Research 4(3-4): 288-309.

Phillips, D. W., and J. A. W. McCulloch (1972). The Climate of the Great Lakes Basin. Climatological Studies э 20, Environment Canada, Toronto, 42+57pp.

Rondy. D. R. (1976). Great Lakes Ice Cover. pp105-117 in: Great Lakes Basin Framework Study, 1976.

Saulesleja, A. (editor) (1986). Great Lakes Climatological Atlas. Ottawa: Environment Canada, 147pp.

Scott, R. W., and F. A. Huff (1996). Impacts of the Great Lakes on regional climate conditions. Journal of Great Lakes Reserach 22(4): 845-863.

Tilzer, M. A., and C. Serruya [editors] (1990). Large Lakes: Ecological Structure and Functions. Berlin-Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 691pp.

Wetzel, R. G. (1983). Limnology, second edition. Fort Worth, TX: Saunders-HBJ, 780pp.

Yoshino, M. M. (1975). Climate in a Small Area. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 549pp.

Russian language literature - Литератyра на Рyсском языке (Koi-8-r encoding)

Атлас Байкала. (1969). Иркутск-Москва: ГУГК СССР, 30с. [Atlas of Baikal]

Байкал. Aтлас. (1993). Москва: Россйская академия наук и Федеральная служба геодезии и картографии России, 160с. [Baikal atlas]

Визенко, О. С., В. В. Власенко, Т. В. Кокоева, Н. П. Ладейщиков, Л. И. Лут, К. Н. Мизандронцева, В. А. Оболкин, и В. Л. Потемкин (1984). Климат Больших Озер Сибири. Новосибирск: Наука, 144с. [O. S. Vizenko, V. V. Vlasenko, T. V. Kokoeva, N. P. Ladeischikov, L. I. Lut, K. N. Mizandrontseva, V. A. Oblokin, and V. L. Potemkin, Climate of large lakes of Siberia]

Выхристок, М. М. (1969а). Краткая Климатологическая Характеристика Котловины Озера Байкал в Районе Ушканьего Архипелага. в сб. Природа Ушканьих Островов на Байкале, 1969. [M. M. Vuikhristyuk, Brief climatological characteristics of the Lake Baikal Basin]

Выхристок, М. М. (1980). Фитоклимат Прибрежных Лесов Северного Байкала. Новосибирск: Наука, 216с. M. M. Vuikhristyuk, [Phytoclimate of the coastal forests of northern Baikal] in the region of the Ushkanii Archipelago]

Галазий, Г. И. (1988). Байкал в Вопросах и Ответах, 3-е издание. Москва: Мысль. 288с. [G. I. Galazii, Baikal in questions and answers]

Галазий, Г. И и К. К. Вотинцев [редакторы] (1987). Путь Познания Байкала. Новосибирск: Наука, Сибирское Отделение, 304с. [G. I Galazii and K. K. Votintsev, Voyage to knowledge of Baikal]

Галазий, Г. И. и Н. П. Ладейщиков [редакторы] (1966). Климат Озера Байкал и Прибайкалья. Mосква: Наука, 176с. [G. I. Galazii and N. P. Ladeischikov (editors), Climate of Lake Baikal and Pribaikal]

Галазий, Г. И. и Н. П. Ладейщиков [редакторы] (1976). Климатические Ресурсы Байкала и Его Бассейна. Новосибирск: Наука, 320с. [G. I. Galazii and N. P. Ladeischikov (editors), Climatic resources of Baikal and its basin]

Ладейщиков, Н. П. [редактор] (1977). Структура и Ресурсы Климата Байкала и Сопредельных Просранств. Москвa: Наука, 272c. [N. P. Ladeischikov (editor), Structure and resources of the climate of Baikal and neighboring area]

Ладейщиков, Н. П. (1982). Особенности Климата Крупных Озер. Москва: Наука. 139c. [N. P. Ladeischikov, Fundamentals of the climate of large lakes]

Ладейщиков, Н. П. (1987) Изучение Kлимата Байкала. с.76-85 в Галазий и Вотинцев, 1987. [N. P. Ladeischikov, Research on the climate of Baikal]

Ладейщиков, Н. П. и В. Н. Моложников (1989). Климат и Растительность Южного Прибайкалья [сборник научных трудов]. Новосибирск: Наука, 152c. [N. P. Ladeischikov and V. N. Molozhnikov, Climate and vegetation of southern Pribaikal]

Мизандронцева, К. Н. (1985). Климат Озера Байкал в Погодах. Новосибирск: Наука, 160с. [K. N. Mizandrontseva, Climate of Baikal in weather]


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