Evaporation from a temperate closed-basin lake and its impact on present, past, and future water level

Ke Xiao, Timothy J. Griffis, John M. Baker, Paul V. Bolstad, Matt D. Erickson, Xuhui Lee, Jeffrey D. Wood, Cheng Hu, John L. Nieber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Lakes provide enormous economic, recreational, and aesthetic benefits to citizens. These ecosystem services may be adversely impacted by climate change. In the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area of Minnesota, USA, many lakes have been at historic low levels and water augmentation strategies have been proposed to alleviate the problem. White Bear Lake (WBL) is a notable example. Its water level declined 1.5 m during 2003–2013 for reasons that are not fully understood. This study examined current, past, and future lake evaporation to better understand how climate will impact the water balance of lakes within this region. Evaporation from WBL was measured from July 2014 to February 2017 using two eddy covariance (EC) systems to provide better constraints on the water budget and to investigate the impact of evaporation on lake level. The estimated annual evaporation losses for years 2014 through 2016 were 559 ± 22 mm, 779 ± 81 mm, and 766 ± 11 mm, respectively. The higher evaporation in 2015 and 2016 was caused by the combined effects of larger average daily evaporation and a longer ice-free season. The EC measurements were used to tune the Community Land Model 4 – Lake, Ice, Snow and Sediment Simulator (CLM4-LISSS) to estimate lake evaporation over the period 1979–2016. Retrospective analyses indicate that WBL evaporation increased during this time by about 3.8 mm year−1, which was driven by increased wind speed and lake-surface vapor pressure gradient. Using a business-as-usual greenhouse gas emission scenario (RCP8.5), lake evaporation was modeled forward in time from 2017 to 2100. Annual evaporation is expected to increase by 1.4 mm year−1 over this century, largely driven by lengthening ice-free periods. These changes in ice phenology and evaporation will have important implications for the regional water balance, and water management and water augmentation strategies that are being proposed for these Metropolitan lakes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-75
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Hydrology
StatePublished - Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier B.V.


  • Eddy covariance
  • Evaporation
  • Ice phenology
  • Lake
  • Modeling
  • Water level


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