Estimating lake ice thickness in Central Ontario

PLoS One. 2018 Dec 6;13(12):e0208519. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0208519. eCollection 2018.


Lakes are a key geographical feature in Canada and have an impact on the regional climate. In the winter, they are important for recreational activities such as snowmobiling and ice fishing and act as part of an important supply route for northern communities. The ability to accurately report lake ice characteristics such as thickness is vital, however, it is underreported in Canada and there is a lack of lake ice thickness records for temperate latitude areas such as Central Ontario. Here, we evaluate the application of previously developed temperature models and RADARSAT-2 for estimating lake ice thickness in Central Ontario and provide insight into the regions long term ice thickness variability. The ALS Environmental Science Shallow Water Ice Profiler (SWIP) was used for validation of both temperature and radar-based models. Results indicate that the traditional approach that uses temperatures to predict ice thickness during ice growth has low RMSE values of 2.3 cm and correlations of greater than 0.9. For ice decay, similar low RMSE values of 2.1 cm and high correlations of 0.97 were found. Using RADARSAT-2 to estimate ice thickness results in R2 values of 0.6 (p < 0.01) but high RMSE values of 11.7 cm. Uncertainty in the RADARSAT-2 approach may be linked to unexplored questions about scattering mechanisms and the interaction of radar signal with mid-latitude lake ice. The application of optimized temperature models to a long-term temperature record revealed a thinning of ice cover by 0.81 cm per decade.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Climate
  • Ice / analysis*
  • Ice Cover*
  • Lakes
  • Ontario
  • Radar


  • Ice

Grant support

This work was supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Discovery Grant - - awarded to Laura Brown; Canadian Foundation for Innovation (34864) - - awarded to Laura Brown; Ontario Research Fund - - awarded to Laura Brown; Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Canada Graduate Scholarship - Master's Program - - awarded to Justin Murfitt; and a University of Toronto Mississauga Geography Department Graduate Expansion Fund - - awarded to Justin Murfitt. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.