Morphometric and chemical response of two contrasting lake systems to modern climate change

Tamie J. Jovanelly, Sherilyn C. Fritz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Observational data on the response of lakes during modern-day periods of abundant precipitation and drought may provide analogs for Holocene stratigraphic records and help elucidate the mechanisms that influence how lakes integrate climate. This study evaluated the impacts of climatic variation during the past 50 years on the morphometry and salinity of two neighboring lake systems in the central U. S. The two lakes were chosen, because paleolimnological reconstructions indicated that they had opposing geochemical responses to climate change at AD1200. This divergence suggested that local differences in hydrological setting had a major impact on the lake response to climate variation. Changes in surface area and volume were derived from aerial photographs and historic measurements of lake conductivity to contemporaneous annual precipitation data, the Palmer Drought Severity Index, and to groundwater table elevation. Hypsographic curves help to illustrate changes in lake surface area to depth. Both lakes showed predictable changes in surface area, volume, and salinity in response to precipitation change, but the magnitude of change in surface area and volume varied between the two lakes, likely because of differences in basin morphometry, but mechanisms remain speculative. These differences in basin size and shape also affected the salinity response over time. In the modern systems, the influence of groundwater on the chemical budgets appears to be limited and does not clarify the differential response of the lakes in the past. Yet, in the past the groundwater connection may have been different in turn changing the way the basins responded to climate. Although this study furthers our understanding of differences in the impacts of climate variations on Moon and Coldwater Lakes during recent times, it still does not clearly reveal why Moon and Coldwater Lake show opposite patterns of salinity change at 1200 A.D.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-98
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Paleolimnology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • Coldwater Lake
  • Great Plains
  • Lake Morphometry
  • Moon Lake
  • North Dakota

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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