A physically based mathematical model of the coupled lake, lake ice, snow and atmosphere system is developed for studying terrestrial-atmospheric interactions in high-elevation and high-latitude regions. The ability to model lake-ice freeze-up, break-up, total ice thickness and ice type offers the potential to describe the effects of climate change in these regions. Model output is validated against lake-ice observations made during the winter of 1992–93 in Glacier National Park, Montana. U.S.A. The model is driven with observed daily atmospheric forcing of precipitation, wind speed and air temperature. In addition to simulating complete energy-balance components over the annual cycle, model output includes ice freeze-up and break-up dates, and the end-of-season clear ice, snow-ice and total ice depths for two nearby lakes in Glacier National Park, each in a different topographic setting. Modeled ice features are found to agree closely with the lake-ice observations.
Model simulations illustrate the key role that the wind component of the local climatic regime plays on the growth and decay of lake ice. The wind speed affects both the surface temperature and the accumulation of snow on the lake-ice surface. Higher snow accumulations on the lake ice depress the ice surface below the water line, causing the snow to become saturated and leading to the formation of snow-ice deposits. In regions having higher wind speeds, significantly less snow accumulates on the lake-ice surface, thus limiting snow-ice formation. The ice produced by these two different mechanisms has distinctly different optical and radiative properties, and affects the monitoring of frozen lakes using remote-sensing techniques.