Climate warming increases vertical and seasonal water temperature differences and inter-annual variability in a mountain lake
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Lakes around the world are warming, but not all water layers are warming at the same rate, and some are even cooling. Most studies have focused on summer lake water surface temperatures or analyzed short-time series. Here, we analyze a 44-year time series of water temperature from nine depths in a small mountain lake using dynamic linear models and temporal trend decomposition. We observe a significant long-term warming trend, but this occurred only from August to December in all water layers. The lake warmed ca. twice as fast (0.23 °C decade−1) as the air, but warming of the epilimnion slowed down remarkably (from 0.65 to 0.10 °C per decade) after 1993, a consequence of changing stratification timing. Deeper water layers even cooled thereafter, pointing to a stronger isolation from surface layers, which were still warming over the whole study period. This differential warming of the lake was accompanied by significant shifts of lake freezing and thawing dates leading to shorter ice-cover periods (~ 5 days decade−1). As a result, the thermal Schmidt stability of the water column strengthened, but also temperature variance in the epilimnion increased significantly, together with increasing variance and extremes of local air temperature. Our results show a significant autumn/winter warming effect of lake water together with an increasing intensity of temperature fluctuations in this seasonally ice-covered mountain lake, suggesting that current broad scale estimates of climate change impacts on lakes, based on summer temperature measurements and surface layers, do not fully reflect the effect of climate change.