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Sat May 5, 2012, 07:18 PM

Lake's freezing and thawing shows warming trend


NEWCOMB, N.Y. Wolf Lake in the Adirondack High Peaks region is considered a "heritage lake," one of the most pristine freshwater bodies in the northeastern United States.

It remains as it was when European settlers arrived in North America. As part of a private preserve bordering the state-owned 300-square-mile High Peaks Wilderness Area, it has escaped pollution and the ravages of invasive plants and animals. It's one of a dwindling number of lakes with heritage brook trout and calcium-rich soils buffering its water from fish-killing acid rain.

But there's no shelter from climate change, and Wolf Lake's pristine days may be numbered. A new study shows the length of time the lake is covered with ice each winter has declined by three weeks since 1975, indicating a change that may alter the lake's ecology and harm cold-water species such as trout.

"Lake ice is a better indicator of climate than weather stations, which require instruments and people to read them and are thus prone to errors," said ecologist Colin Beier, lead author of the study published online this week by the international journal Climatic Change. "Lake ice doesn't lie. The process of ice formation and lake closure and opening is a straightforward physical process, and people have kept records of it for decades."


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