New publication: Geographic variation and temporal trends in ice phenology in Norwegian lakes during the period 1890–2020

By Jan Henning L'Abée-Lund, L. Asbjørn Vøllestad, John Edward Brittain, Ånund Sigurd Kvambekk, and Tord Solvang in The Cryosphere. Open Access.


Long-term observations of ice phenology in lakes are ideal for studying climatic variation in time and space. We used a large set of observations from 1890 to 2020 of the timing of freeze-up and break-up, and the length of ice-free season, for 101 Norwegian lakes to elucidate variation in ice phenology across time and space. The dataset of Norwegian lakes is unusual, covering considerable variation in elevation (4–1401 m a.s.l.) and climate (from oceanic to continental) within a substantial latitudinal and longitudinal gradient (58.2–69.9 N, 4.9–30.2 E).

The average date of ice break-up occurred later in spring with increasing elevation, latitude and longitude. The average date of freeze-up and the length of the ice-free period decreased significantly with elevation and longitude. No correlation with distance from the ocean was detected, although the geographical gradients were related to regional climate due to adiabatic processes (elevation), radiation (latitude) and the degree of continentality (longitude). There was a significant lake surface area effect as small lakes froze up earlier due to less volume. There was also a significant trend that lakes were completely frozen over later in the autumn in recent years. After accounting for the effect of long-term trends in the large-scale North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index, a significant but weak trend over time for earlier ice break-up was detected.

An analysis of different time periods revealed significant and accelerating trends for earlier break-up, later freeze-up and completely frozen lakes after 1991. Moreover, the trend for a longer ice-free period also accelerated during this period, although not significantly.

An understanding of the relationship between ice phenology and geographical parameters is a prerequisite for predicting the potential future consequences of climate change on ice phenology. Changes in ice phenology will have consequences for the behaviour and life cycle dynamics of the aquatic biota.

Publication details

The Cryosphere, 15, 2333–2356, 2021
DOI: 10.5194/tc-15-2333-2021
Published: 20 May 2021
Publication webpage.

Author with CEES affiliation

L. Asbjørn Vøllestad

Published May 26, 2021 10:38 PM - Last modified May 26, 2021 10:38 PM