Climate confounds detection of chemical trends related to acid deposition in upper Midwest lakes in the USA
Between 1983–94, as acid deposition rates declined, SO4 2− concentrations decreased in 18 of 28 lakes monitored by the upper Midwest LTM program. The expected recovery of ANC and pH was less common, however. Differences in climate may account for divergent trend patterns across the region. Only in Minnesota, where climatic shifts were less pronounced, did we observe a general pattern of increasing lake ANC and pH accompanying declines in SO4 2−. In contrast, the widespread negative trends in lake SO4 2− in the upper Michigan lakes were generally not associated with recovery of ANC and pH, but with decreases in Ca+Mg. These cation decreases may be linked to decreased groundwater inputs during the drier climatic conditions characterizing the study period and decreases in Ca+Mg in atmospheric deposition. In many of the Wisconsin lakes, an overall decline in SO4 2− was precluded by SO4 2− increases during a 4-year drought midway through the study period. During the drought, declining lake water level and volume caused evaporative concentration of solutes, and may have decreased the areal extent of sulfate reduction. Despite controls on sulfur emissions across the region, recovery of pH and ANC has been hindered by climatic shifts and concurrent decreases in atmospheric deposition of cations.