Radiatively driven convection in ice-covered lakes: Observations, scaling, and a mixed layer model

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Penetrative convection is discussed where the instability is driven by radiative heating of water below the temperature of maximum density. Convection of this type occurs in ice-covered freshwater lakes in late spring, when the snow cover vanishes and solar radiation is absorbed beneath the ice cover. The vertical temperature structure, bulk mixed layer scaling, and mixed layer deepening are examined for a number of temperate and polar lakes. A bulk mixed layer scaling for this type of convection is based on energy arguments underlying the classical Deardorff convective scaling. The depth of the convective layer serves as an appropriate length scale. However, a modified scale that takes account of the energetics of a distributed radiation source term replaces the surface buoyancy flux velocity scale used by Deardorff. The scaling compares favorably with large-eddy simulations of turbulence kinetic energy (TKE) and with both observations and large-eddy simulations of the TKE dissipation rate. Mixed layer deepening is simulated with a model of convection beneath lake ice. The model describes the structure of the stably stratified layer just beneath the ice with a stationary solution to the heat transfer equation; the structure of the entrainment layer is parameterized with a zero-order jump approach. The entrainment equation is derived from the mixed layer TKE budget and bulk mixed layer scaling. Entrainment regimes characteristic of convection beneath ice are analyzed. It is shown that if the Deardorff convective velocity scale is replaced with a scale incorporating the distributed buoyancy flux, the entrainment equation describing atmospheric and oceanic convective boundary layers also applies beneath the ice. Model predictions compare well with data from observations in a number of lakes. We propose and compare with observations an extension of the mixed layer model that allows for the inclusion of salinity. Although the salt concentration is low in most temperate and polar lakes, its dynamical effect can be significant close to the temperature of maximum density.

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Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans