Tropical Storm Irene

A buoy in Lake Sunapee

Ecosystem Effects of a Tropical Cyclone on a Network of Lakes in Northeastern North America

Jennifer L. Klug, Biology Department, Fairfield University
David C. Richardson, Biology Department, SUNY- New Paltz
Holly A. Ewing, Environmental Studies, Bates College
Bruce R. Hargreaves, Earth & Env. Sciences, Lehigh University
Nihar R. Samal, New York City Dept. of Env. Protection, Kingston, NY
Dominic Vachon, Département des Sciences Biologiques, Université du Québec
Donald C. Pierson, New York City Dept. of Env. Protection, Kingston, NY
Amanda M. Lindsey, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, NY
David M. O'Donnell, Upstate Freshwater Institute, Syracuse, NNY
Steven W. Effler, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, NY

Here we document the regional effects of Tropical Cyclone Irene on thermal structure and ecosystem metabolism in nine lakes and reservoirs in northeastern North America using a network of high-frequency, in situ, automated sensors.

Thermal stability declined within hours in all systems following the passage of Irene, and the magnitude of change was related to the volume of water falling on the lake and catchment relative to lake volume.

Across systems, temperature change predicted the change in primary production, but changes in mixed-layer thickness did not affect metabolism. Instead, respiration became a driver of ecosystem metabolism that was decoupled from in-lake primary production, likely due to the addition of terrestrially derived carbon. Regionally, energetic disturbance of thermal structure was shorter-lived than disturbance from inflows of terrestrial materials.

Given predicted regional increases in intense rain events with climate change, the magnitude and longevity of ecological impacts of these storms will be greater in systems with large catchments relative to lake volume, particularly when significant material is available for transport from the catchment. This case illustrates the power of automated sensor networks and associated human networks.

Read the full story