New knowledge of climate effects on lakes thanks to open data

The European Union’s focus on acquiring data in Copernicus, a European cooperation for monitoring of the earth, has made a large amount of data openly accessible and useable. In a case study of climate change in water courses in Jönköping County, SMHI has created new knowledge to the benefit of the County Administrative Board. The case study is one of many in an online water-management service based on data from the Copernicus programme. 

Knowledge of conditions on land, in the water and the sea, is important in terms of adapting society to a changed climate.

“A warmer climate not only results in warmer water temperatures. Our lakes, and all life in them, are affected in so many ways. Not only does the ice layer in lakes diminish, but the water composition of the water is also affected. This affects everything, from fish to algae,” says Katrina Stensen, hydrologist at SMHI.

Charr in Lake Vättern
The charr is a cold water species, which is affected when water temperatures increase. Foto Klas Balkhed, Länsstyrelsen Jönköpings län

Good bathing water and water that is easily made potable, is something that we in Sweden like to take for granted. Water quality is affected by the interplay between various animals and organisms that live in the inland waterways.

Effects of climate change on large bodies of water

In a changed climate, water temperatures will increase, both on the surface and at depth; consequently, the composition of the water is affected. Development of the ice layer in lakes will occur later in the year, and the ice will remain for a shorter period. This has an impact on the lakes. Additionally, there is subsequent effect in terms of conditions for tourism and recreation.

“The final results will be presented at the end of 2017 and will show how much the various types of lakes have heated up and how the ice layer and the composition of water bodies are affected,” says Katarina Stensen. The County Councils can use this in their work toward preserving good water quality and healthy lakes.

Open data for climate effects study

In the case study for Jönköping County Council, SMHI used information about how climate change occurs, developed within the Copernicus programme, to investigate a number of inland waters. The study was implemented within the SWICCA project, which has developed a web service that processes data and guidance for climate impact studies and climate adaptation within the European water sector. The service shows through 15 examples, how environmental- and water consultants in Europe can use indicators in climate adaptation work. It was developed for water users in various sectors, e.g. drinking water, energy, agriculture, industry, warning services, transport and environmental protection.

“We have adapted climate data to the water sector to make it easier and quicker to perform simple analyses, without the need to perform large calculations yourself,” says Berit Arheimer, head of the Hydrological Research Unit at SMHI, and project coordinator for SWICCA.

About the global monitoring programme, Copernicus

Copernicus is a European global monitoring system, and consists of a complex set of systems that gather data from several sources, e.g. earth observation satellites, calculation models and “in-situ” sensors (earth stations, airborne and ocean-borne sensors). Copernicus processes data and, through various services, provides the user with reliable and up-to-date information, primarily in the environmental- and security field. The services provided by Copernicus can also be tailor-made based on specific public- or commercial needs, and may be used free of charge. Copernicus is coordinated and administrated by the European Commission.