24 Aug 2023
 | 24 Aug 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Thermal stratification and meromixis in four dilute temperate zone lakes

Elizabeth Swanner, Chris Harding, Sajjad Akam, Ioan Lascu, Gabrielle Ledesma, Pratik Poudel, Heeyeon Sun, Samuel Duncanson, Karly Bandy, Alex Branham, Liza Bryant-Tapper, Tanner Conwell, Omri Jamison, and Lauren Netz

Abstract. Four adjacent lakes (Arco, Budd, Deming, and Josephine) within Itasca State Park in Minnesota, USA are reported to be meromictic in the scientific literature. However, seasonally persistent chemoclines have never been documented. We collected seasonal profiles of temperature and specific conductance and placed temperature sensor chains in two lakes for ~ 1 year to explore whether these lakes remain stratified through seasonal mixing events, and what factors contribute to their stability. The results indicate that all lakes are predominantly thermally stratified and are prone to mixing in isothermal periods during spring and fall. Despite brief, semi-annual erosion of thermal stratification, Deming Lake showed no signs of complete mixing from 2006 to 2009 and 2019–2022 and is likely meromictic. Geochemical data indicate that water in Budd Lake, the most dilute lake, is predominantly sourced from precipitation. The water in the other three lakes is calcium-magnesium bicarbonate type, reflecting a source of water that has interacted with the landscape. δ18OH2O and δ2HH2O measurements indicate the lakes are supplied by precipitation modified by evaporation. The water residence time in meromictic Deming Lake is short (100 days), yet it maintains a large reservoir of dissolved iron. Josephine, Arco, and Deming lakes sit in a valley with likely permeable sediments and may be hydrologically connected through wetlands, and recharged with shallow groundwater, as no streams are present. All four lakes develop subsurface chlorophyll maxima layers during the summer. All lakes also develop subsurface oxygen maxima that may result from oxygen trapping in the spring by rapidly developed thermoclines. Documenting the mixing status and general chemistry of these lakes enhances their utility and accessibility for future biogeochemical studies.

Elizabeth Swanner et al.

Status: open (until 09 Nov 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1764', Anonymous Referee #1, 21 Sep 2023 reply
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Elizabeth Swanner, 26 Sep 2023 reply

Elizabeth Swanner et al.

Elizabeth Swanner et al.


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Short summary
Four lakes were thought to be permanently stratified. Years’ worth of data indicates only one lake is permanently stratified. Strong temperature gradients keep it stratified – unusual for a lake in a temperate climate. The lake has elevated oxygen concentrations within the temperature gradient. Rapid development of the gradient in the spring traps oxygen, and oxygen production by photosynthetic organisms during the summer adds more.