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Influence of the Laurentian Great Lakes on Regional Climate

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  • 1 Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Madison, Wisconsin
  • 2 Department of Geography, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Mashhad, Iran
  • 3 Université de Bourgogne, Dijon, France
  • 4 Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Madison, Wisconsin
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Abstract

The influence of the Laurentian Great Lakes on climate is assessed by comparing two decade-long simulations, with the lakes either included or excluded, using the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics Regional Climate Model, version 4. The Great Lakes dampen the variability in near-surface air temperature across the surrounding region while reducing the amplitude of the diurnal cycle and annual cycle of air temperature. The impacts of the Great Lakes on the regional surface energy budget include an increase (decrease) in turbulent fluxes during the cold (warm) season and an increase in surface downward shortwave radiation flux during summer due to diminished atmospheric moisture and convective cloud amount. Changes in the hydrologic budget due to the presence of the Great Lakes include increases in evaporation and precipitation during October–March and decreases during May–August, along with springtime reductions in snowmelt-related runoff. Circulation responses consist of a regionwide decrease in sea level pressure in autumn–winter and an increase in summer, with enhanced ascent and descent in the two seasons, respectively. The most pronounced simulated impact of the Great Lakes on synoptic systems traversing the basin is a weakening of cold-season anticyclones.

Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research Publication Number 1077.

Corresponding author address: Michael Notaro, Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research, University of Wisconsin—Madison, 1225 West Dayton Street, Madison, WI 53706. E-mail: mnotaro@wisc.edu

Abstract

The influence of the Laurentian Great Lakes on climate is assessed by comparing two decade-long simulations, with the lakes either included or excluded, using the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics Regional Climate Model, version 4. The Great Lakes dampen the variability in near-surface air temperature across the surrounding region while reducing the amplitude of the diurnal cycle and annual cycle of air temperature. The impacts of the Great Lakes on the regional surface energy budget include an increase (decrease) in turbulent fluxes during the cold (warm) season and an increase in surface downward shortwave radiation flux during summer due to diminished atmospheric moisture and convective cloud amount. Changes in the hydrologic budget due to the presence of the Great Lakes include increases in evaporation and precipitation during October–March and decreases during May–August, along with springtime reductions in snowmelt-related runoff. Circulation responses consist of a regionwide decrease in sea level pressure in autumn–winter and an increase in summer, with enhanced ascent and descent in the two seasons, respectively. The most pronounced simulated impact of the Great Lakes on synoptic systems traversing the basin is a weakening of cold-season anticyclones.

Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research Publication Number 1077.

Corresponding author address: Michael Notaro, Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research, University of Wisconsin—Madison, 1225 West Dayton Street, Madison, WI 53706. E-mail: mnotaro@wisc.edu
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