Document Type


Publication Date



Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering


The Laurentian Great Lakes are the world's largest freshwater system and regulate the climate of the Great Lakes region, which has been increasingly experiencing climatic, hydrological, and ecological changes. An accurate mechanistic representation of the Great Lakes thermal structure in Regional Climate Models (RCMs) is paramount to studying the climate of this region. Currently, RCMs have primarily represented the Great Lakes through coupled one-dimensional (1D) column lake models; this approach works well for small inland lakes but is unable to resolve the realistic hydrodynamics of the Great Lakes and leads to inaccurate representations of lake surface temperature (LST) that influence regional climate and weather patterns. This work overcomes this limitation by developing a fully two-way coupled modeling system using the Weather Research and Forecasting model and a three-dimensional (3D) hydrodynamic model. The coupled model system resolves the interactive physical processes between the atmosphere, lake, and surrounding watersheds; and validated against a range of observational data. The model is then used to investigate the potential impacts of lake-atmosphere coupling on the simulated summer LST of Lake Superior. By evaluating the difference between our two-way coupled modeling system and our observation-driven modeling system, we find that coupled-lake atmosphere dynamics can lead to a higher LST during June-September through higher net surface heat flux entering the lake in June and July and a lower net surface heat flux entering the lake in August and September. The unstratified water in June distributes the entering surface heat flux throughout the water column leading to a minor LST increase, while the stratified waters of July create a conducive thermal structure for the water surface to warm rapidly under the higher incoming surface heat flux. This research provides insight into the coupled modeling system behavior, which is critical for enhancing our predictive understanding of the Great Lakes climate system.

Publisher's Statement

© 2023 The Authors. Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of American Geophysical Union. Publisher’s version of record:

Publication Title

Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Publisher's PDF



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.