10X10: Under The Ice
So it had snowed around thanksgiving. And then that snow melted and it remained cold up high Pyan elevations. But the roads opened over the high passes and the ice the lakes were not buried in snow. So the ice was bear. And I had a friend who was working in Yosemite at the time. And she called me up. She was like you've gotta come up and record these lakes. This is Cheryl Leonard a sound artist from California, you're hearing a composition she made with recordings of Lake Ice in Yosemite. Can't got there around dawn. I have the sounds in the morning of the it's like the lake waking up, really. Do you do, you know, what's the process? That's creating each of those sounds. I I know in general it has to do with the ice expanding and contracting. If it's warming or cooling, so more sounds happen in the morning and the evening as temperatures changing dramatically, and as the the ice, it's literally like getting smaller getting larger and it's stuck in a spot. So it it flexes and it buckles in the cracks and that those actions create vibrations or sounds and then that sound travels across the surface of the lake the frozen lake. It's like a giant drum membrane. So the sound travels across that membrane through the ice. The high frequencies, go faster. The low frequencies are slower. So the highs hit your ear. I and the lows your later so you hear the sort of gla Songo from the highs the lows. Which most people recognize it's like the Star Wars blaster. So. So so when whenever you're on a lake that's making these sounds. Do you have does it have Vokes something for you? I mean, it is still for me something that kind of evokes a bit of dread. It's not scary to me. I just think it's really incredible. It's beautiful. It's like it's like travelling to another universe or something. It is a different world under the ice of a frozen lake that used to be the traditional thinking is that there's just not enough flight. There's no planned growth old lakes kind of become boring and darken the same in the winter. But there's oh this is really not the case. This is outside in a show about the natural world. And how we use it. This is one from our -cational series ten by ten where we look very closely at a specific type of environment today. We're going under the ice. What happens in a lake once it freezes over what survives and how do they do it? Start on top of the ice ice fishing. And if you're thinking Sam, I am a science person. I don't care about ISIS fishing. What are you doing to me here? Well, get a load of this straight from the mouth of a real frozen lake. Scientist Ted is our ski. I kind of always say this Duncan cheek. But maybe that's true. Is that ice fisherman know more about what happens in lakes and winter than the average aquatic biologist hair, go fishing flat. UCF flag, you've gotta yell flagging run towards it. That's rule everybody right over there. Right. All right. Producer Taylor recently went ice fishing with his son Finn. Taylor's tour guide. Hey, I'm Klay gross. Chief executive fish nerd, the podcast Hampshire longtime friend at the show. Totally totally untrustworthy. Our tagline for our show is is always interesting usually funny, mostly true. So I'm not held to being honest fishermen. But when it comes to what's active under the Lake Ice. Klay does know thing or two yellow perch, white perch, black crappie verbs, mama bass. Head Brown Bullhead margin. Mad Tom tesla daughter swamp darter northern red bellied days fine, scaled up blue bumpkin, see banded sunfish, see Alantic, salmon. The first thing you need to know about the water under layer vice is that it's actually not that bad down there in the winter. It's warm at the bottom, and that's why most Fisher down at the bottom. So it's usually. About thirty eight degrees at the bottom. If thirty degree water doesn't sound very warm. Do you consider that? Maybe just twenty feet higher up above the ice. It might be thirty below zero and blowing a gale. So while it's definitely chilly under the ice in winter compared to other extreme winter environments. It's not that bad. So what what are you catching a in? This like this lake is mostly the warm water species. So bass perch sunfish that sort of thing, but it's a straight into college warm water species been living under the ice. Right. No. It doesn't. Now. Let's ponder this. First second, the whole reason fish can thrive in a frozen winter lake is because the ice forms on top effectively capping the lake off limiting how much water and winter air interact making it so the whole lake doesn't freeze solid. And why is that? What is really weird Ted ski again, who by the way is with university of Wisconsin, Madison. It's really weird substance weekday they could kind of for granted because it's everywhere. But if you look at other liquids water is really different. And the weird thing was water is that it's Stempler of maximum density. Where it's heavy. Viest is three point nine six degrees celsius which in Fahrenheit is around thirty nine degrees. That means that the really cold water. That's right up top right by the ice that sitting at like thirty four degrees, and is at risk of freezing soon is actually lighter than the warmer water down below. So in the summer when you dive into a lake and it's warm at the top, but cold a few feet down in the winter, the lake turns over in the winter dope thing happened. So the water the very surface is getting cooled down to close to freezing temperature. And that makes it lighter than the water underneath this weird. Quality of water is also what makes iced float mo- substances on earth are more dense as a solid than liquid to they think. But if you've ever had a drink with ice cubes in it, you know, that they Bob up to the surface and the same thing happens in a frozen Lake Ice forms on top. If frozen water sank to the bottom of lakes, the water at the surface would stay exposed to the frigid temperatures all winter long and more and more of the water would freeze navy eventually freezing the whole lake solid. But instead it floats. I said Nick property of floaty is one of the only solids is less dense as a solid and liquid. It's why we have life on the planet without if I didn't flow, we have no life. Yeah. It's true story. That's actually, probably not true. At least it's complicated. And what's more? If you think of frozen lake is a bad place to be a fish. You have got to learn to think like a fish reveals around here, you're under the ice. You're safe from eagles. Not from me. So ice actually keeps fish warmer than they might be otherwise ice keeps them safe from predators. What's not to like here? He's coming. Do anything. Yeah. Oh, pumpkin seed. What is that thing? Well, there are hardships down there. We'll hear about it after a break. Hey, taylor. Quimby here frequently the author of the outside in newsletter. Everyone should subscribe to and that is air Cajanek. And we're just here to let you know that it's got discussion comps for those of you who like to eat stuff with us or other listeners on social media. It's also got answers to ask Sam questions. The newsletter has links to articles at the outside in team think are very cool just describe to it already. And if you're into newsletters, I think it's pretty good who isn't into newsletters. I love newsletters. What are you waiting for? If you like to subscribe, you can find that our website outside in radio dot org or follow the link in the show notes. Subscribe. Before the break. We learned that colden ice really aren't that much of an impediment to most of the organisms that live in frozen lakes. But if you're looking for threats to life under the ice, one of the biggest is that during the winter fish can suffocate. So a lot of doctrine that. Enters lake either enters from that fear or through photosynthesis. In the winter, you have a disruption to both of these processes, right? So the lake is capped by the slayer vice that floating cap of Lake Ice cuts off auction from the atmosphere, and if he is covered with snow that cuts off the sunlight to the plants can start to die and decompose they stop producing and start consuming oxygen. Meanwhile, the fish and other creatures keep breathing so the oxygen in the water gets lower and lower one of the consequences of that can be these winter fish kills where in some lakes doctrine can get so low in the water column old efficient bliss. Died because of suffocation over the winter the whole lake choked off lifeless. Not every lake does this deeper lakes have a bigger store of oxygen and can make it through the winter, just fine. But even still this idea of a choked off frozen silent world is one that has lead people to assume that there's not much action under the ice in the winter for the scientists who study lake life the time to do that in the summer. Right. I think it kind of highlights how science sometimes has these blind spots. People haven't been studying winter very much, which leads to people assuming that nothing is happening which makes people not interested in studying what's happening in the winter, which again leads to there being no studies of winter. And kind of feeds this circle of in the way, where we don't find anything interesting because you're not studying it. The hang out with the fishermen and you'll get another story. Yellow purse. I think this is pumpkin seed, oh my God. Oh. Sure, there are fish that slow way down during the winter and survive by just doing way less kind of the same strategy that bears have above the ice. So you have your warm water fishes, we're talking about fast picked role and and yellow perch, they like to hug the bottom where it's nice and cozy warm at like thirty eight degrees. That's where they're going to be. But the idea that this is the only way to survive the winter, but hunkering down and conserving calories. That's only part of the story. But if you're cold water fishes, so like rainbow trout crews with their with their fin touching the top of the ice. And they'll do they'll chase minnows and shiners into shallow water and corner them and gorge on them all winter. They love the ice clay's favorite cold water. Fish is the burbot you'll pouts lawyers link cod their Latin name a lotta lotta fish so nice to name twice all summer long. They're really hard to find. Because they spend their time down where it's cold not doing much. Then when lakes freeze they come to life may spent winter gorging and eating and then in March, they have these they get together in the shallow waters. Rocky bays under the ice and giant big slimy. Orgies making new fish, and it's mazing delicious. The important part. Yeah. In other words, some fish aren't like bears. They're like FOX's out and about all winter long cruising through that weird layer of light cold water at the top of the lake that's all full of oxygen. In fact, you don't have to go very deep to find the action frozen lakes. Some of the craziest stuff is going on right where the water and ice, touch, and it's all driven by another weird thing about ice. I know if if you went to see and you licked CIs faced fresh as ice freezes all of the stuff dissolved in the water is excluded. So if you think about the ice freezing and the top of the lake or or in the see as the ice builds squeezes all the stuff the sold and the dissolve their Ganic meditate was in it and increases that concentrations of this stuff right below the ice, which means that right at this margin between the ice and the water things can grow. You can have algae attaching directly to the bottom of dice. What they describe as these like algae beards almost hanging down from from the ice into the water. And I assume we're we must be talking microscopic. Beards. No, they can be like visible. They can extend you know, like a food down from the ice. Really the SIM. Really? In fact, if you set your expectation for what constitutes interesting activity a little bit smaller. There's some wild stuff down there. Alger really weird Fido plankton, they're weird some Algiere. What's known this mix a trophy? So they can either use light or they can eat bacteria, for example, or they can even use dissolved organic material to feed themselves. So these mixed trophic algae that can utilize different energy sources become in some cases, more abundant than the winter. Most fighter plankton are auto trophy like most plants use sunlight to make their own food. These little mix trophy guys can do that. But they also can eat stuff that's floating in the water. They're like the Venus fly traps of the microscopic plant world, and they actually do better in the winter and even the tiny little things that don't like the cold. Has got some pretty amazing strategies for surviving. The winter. Algae or plankton and some species of zooplankton they're very kind of avoid of cold water winter conditions. Remember, Fido, plankton equals tiny plants zooplankton equals tiny animals. So there are able to produce this resting EKG. When they fielded the conditions are deteriorating the summer's ending. There's less food that getting darker they put older energy into producing this one resting egg. That's really strongly armored kind of. And then when they die sinks down to the sediment. Could actually remain viable into sediment for hundreds of years. There's a whole branch of ecology resurrection. Ecology where people try to restore these hundred zero eggs of plankton. Idea that it's dead down there. That's a fallacy even when some things in lakes do die. You can bring them back like some tiny lake deity. And the story is that there's a God and goddess that live together on enshrine on the lake and what happens when people live together for too long. Sometimes they got into a disagreement and the gods moved out, and she built herself shrine on the other side of the lake, but every winter the God would cross the frozen lake with his dragon to make amends with the goddess seven Sharma is a professor at York University in Toronto. And this story the God and the goddess falling in and out of love every year from opposite. Sides of a frozen lake is the inspiration for the world's longest running Lake Ice data set fifteen generations of the same family of Shinto priests have been recording this information since fourteen. Forty two the kept records of when the Lakewood freeze and win a distinctive ridge of ice, connecting the temples would form. It's a great story. But it's also very useful to climate scientists who are studying leykis. And what you see if you do what Sapna has done and look not just at the single lake, but it lakes all across the northern hemisphere is a trend that will surprise literally no one is a trend towards earlier icebreaker later ice-free, and some leaks that historically froze every winter are beginning to no longer freeze, for example, this like in Japan in the first two hundred fifty years at the time series. It didn't three times. But if you look at the last three decades, it only freezes two times out of ten years. But we also looked at the lakes that are still freezing. When might they expect to become ice free. And we were really surprised at how fast these changes are expected and how fast the warming is going to impact Lake Ice covers. So if we think about for example, lake mendota is one of the world's best he'd lakes in Madison, Wisconsin, it's record goes back to the eighteen fifties frozen every year, and our models indicate that by the mid twenty twenties that lake is not going to be freezing. Every winter. That's really soon. So there are people fishing here and our friends over here have these traps into Waterloo flags popped up, and they are checking the fish. You got a fish on there. As those lakes, stop freezing, everything that has adapted to exist. Above and below the ice will find it harder and harder to exist. Tiny Venus fly traps getting crowded out by your standard lake algae slimy winter fish orgies under the ice disappearing in favor of ever more small mouth bass, no more crossing the lake with your dragon to make up with your goddess, no, more, pond, hockey and for clay hill. Only be able to say look at this is that one in the summertime, but we lost one questions. Everybody like, why do you like to fish, and no one can't the question? It doesn't make fishing dumbest thing on the planet. It like you think about it. I'm going to bet with a warm drop it out to the ice. Catch a fish look at it. Put it back in the water in do it again. There's no outcome. Like, there's nothing. There's no goal. It's just fishing, and it senseless. It's dumb. I don't know. Why? I like it. I can't explain while waiting for the turn here. But there's no turn is the dumbest thing ever. And I love it. And I can't explain it. Think about a lot of things in life that bring you joy, really hard to explain them. It's when you really get into it most things, we do dumb, and you just do it. Because it's makes you feel good. Go. All right buddy later. Outside. This produces by me. Sam Evans Brown Taylor Quimby with help from in paradise. Jimmy, Gutierrez air Janik is our executive producer. And Maureen McMurray is the director of feeding gratuitous splashing sound effects especial. Thanks, Jon Magnusson. Stephanie Hampton for directing us to the right folks for the story music in this week's episode came from blue dot sessions, Iki mushoo, and Lee, Rosa view, all the sounds of Lake Ice are from Cheryl Leonard's composition frozen over if you'd like to check out more of her work. We'll put a link at our website outside in radio dot org. Our theme music is by brake master cylinder outside in a production of New Hampshire public radio. So somebody wanted to go ice fishing. So they took their ice fishing amateur ill to the ice. They drilled a hole put their light of the the ice. And then they heard there's no fish under the ice. So they moved at drilled another hole and put their line down again. Then they heard it again. There's no fish under the. Ice the moved a final time and they sat down they trailed their holes in their lives down. Then they heard this is the rink manager. There's no fish under the. Oh, that's good. Can I use that on the radio? Okay. Cool.