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River-ice break-up/freeze-up: a review of climatic drivers, historical trends and future predictions

  • T.D. Prowse (a1), B.R. Bonsal (a1), C.R. Duguay (a1) and M.P. Lacroix (a1)
Abstract

River ice plays a fundamental role in biological, chemical and physical processes that control freshwater regimes of the cold regions. Moreover, it can have enormous economic implications for river-based developments. All such activities and processes can be modified significantly by any changes to river-ice thickness, composition or event timing and severity. This paper briefly reviews some of the major hydraulic, mechanical and thermodynamic processes controlling river-ice events and how these are influenced by variations in climate. A regional and temporal synthesis is also made of the observed historical trends in river-ice break-up/freeze-up occurrence from the Eurasian and North American cold regions. This involves assessment of several hydroclimatic variables that have influenced past trends and variability in river-ice break-up/freeze-up dates including air-temperature indicators (e.g. seasonal temperature, 0˚C isotherm dates and various degree-days) and large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns or teleconnections. Implications of future climate change on the timing and severity of river-ice events are presented and discussed in relation to the historical trends. Attention is drawn to the increasing trends towards the occurrence of mid-winter break-up events that can produce especially severe flood conditions but prove to be the most difficult type of event to model and predict.

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References
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