Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2021-195
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2021-195

  15 Jun 2021

15 Jun 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Seasonality of density currents induced by differential cooling

Tomy Doda1,2, Cintia L. Ramón1, Hugo N. Ulloa2, Alfred Wüest1,2, and Damien Bouffard1 Tomy Doda et al.
  • 1Eawag, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Surface Waters - Research and Management, Kastanienbaum, 6047, Switzerland
  • 2Physics of Aquatic Systems Laboratory, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, 1015, Switzerland

Abstract. When lakes experience surface cooling, the shallow littoral region cools faster than the deep pelagic waters. The lateral density gradient resulting from this differential cooling can trigger a cold downslope density current that intrudes at the base of the mixed layer during stratified conditions. This process is known as thermal siphon (TS). TS flushes the littoral region and increases water exchange between nearshore and pelagic zones, with possible implications on the lake ecosystem. Past observations of TS in lakes are limited to specific cooling events. Here, we focus on the seasonality of the TS-induced lateral transport and investigate how the seasonally varying forcing conditions control the occurrence and intensity of TS. We base our analysis on one year of observations of TS in Rotsee (Switzerland), a small wind-sheltered temperate lake composed of an elongated shallow region. We demonstrate that TS occurs for more than 50 % of the days from late summer to winter and efficiently flushes the littoral region in ~10 hours. We further quantify the seasonal evolution of the occurrence, intensity and timing of TS. The conditions for the formation of TS are optimal in autumn, when the duration of the cooling phase is longer than the initiation timescale of TS. The decrease in surface cooling by one order of magnitude from summer to winter reduces the lateral transport by a factor of two. We interpret this transport seasonality with scaling relationships relating the daily averaged cross-shore velocity, unit-width discharge and flushing timescale to the surface buoyancy flux, mixed layer depth and lake bathymetry. The timing and duration of the diurnal flushing by TS are associated with the duration of the daily heating and cooling phases. The longer cooling phase in autumn increases the flushing duration and delays the time of maximal flushing, compared to the summer period. Our findings based on scaling arguments can be extended to other aquatic systems to assess, at a global scale, the relevance of TS in lakes and reservoirs.

Tomy Doda et al.

Status: open (until 10 Aug 2021)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on hess-2021-195', Anonymous Referee #1, 15 Jul 2021 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on hess-2021-195', Anonymous Referee #2, 16 Jul 2021 reply
  • RC3: 'Comment on hess-2021-195', Anonymous Referee #3, 20 Jul 2021 reply

Tomy Doda et al.

Tomy Doda et al.

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Short summary
At night or during cold periods, the shallow littoral region of lakes cools faster than their deeper interior. This induces a cold downslope current that brings littoral waters offshore. From a one-year-long database collected in a small temperate lake, we resolve the seasonality of this current and report its frequent occurrence from summer to winter. This study contributes to a better quantification of lateral exchange in lakes, with implications for the transport of dissolved compounds.