Data for: Seasonality of density currents induced by differential cooling

When lakes experience surface cooling, the shallow littoral region cools faster than the deep pelagic waters. The lateral density gradient resulting from this differential cooling can trigger a cold downslope density current that intrudes at the base of the mixed layer during stratified conditions. This process is known as a thermal siphon (TS). A TS flushes the littoral region and increases water exchange between nearshore and pelagic zones and may thus potentially impact the lake ecosystem. Past observations of TS in lakes are limited to specific cooling events. Here, we focus on the seasonality of TS-induced lateral transport and investigate how seasonally varying forcing conditions control the occurrence and intensity of TS. This research interprets one-year-long TS observations from Rotsee (Switzerland), a small wind-sheltered temperate lake with an elongated shallow region. We demonstrate that a TS occurs for more than 50 % of the days from late summer to winter and efficiently flushes the littoral region within ~10 hours. We further quantify the occurrence, intensity and timing of the TS over seasonal time scales. The conditions for TS formation become optimal in autumn when the duration of the cooling phase is longer than the time necessary to initiate a TS. The decrease in surface cooling by one order of magnitude from summer to winter reduces the lateral transport by a factor of two. We interpret this transport seasonality with scaling relationships relating the daily averaged cross-shore velocity, unit-width discharge and flushing timescale to the surface buoyancy flux, mixed layer depth and lake bathymetry. The timing and duration of diurnal flushing by TS relate to daily heating and cooling phases. The longer cooling phase in autumn increases the flushing duration and delays the time of maximal flushing relative to the summer diurnal cycle. Given their scalability, the results reported here can be used to assess the relevance of TS in other lakes and reservoirs.

Dataset extent

Data and Resources


This Data Package

Doda, T., Ramón, C. L., Ulloa, H. N., Wüest, A., & Bouffard, D. (2021). Data for: Seasonality of density currents induced by differential cooling (Version 1.0). Eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology.

The associated article

Doda, T., Ramón, C. L., Ulloa, H. N., Wüest, A., & Bouffard, D. (2022). Seasonality of density currents induced by differential cooling. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 26(2), 331–353.


Open Data Open Data
  • Doda, Tomy
  • Ramón, Cintia Luz
  • Ulloa, Hugo Nicolás
  • Wüest, Alfred
  • Bouffard, Damien
Keywords seasonality,density current,gravity current,differential cooling,lateral transport,horizontal transport,lake
  • pressure
  • relative_humidity
  • solar_radiation
  • temperature
  • velocity
  • wind_speed
  • lake
  • 2019-03-13 TO 2020-06-05
Geographic Name(s)
  • Rotsee (Canton Lucerne, Switzerland)
Review Level general
Curator Doda, Tomy
DOI 10.25678/00057K