Stratification Stratification is the building up of layers. Stratified refer to the arranging of layers, to separate or become separated into layers. They may be; Atmospheric stratification, the dividing of the Earth's atmosphere into strata Stratification (Water), the formation of water layers based on salinity and temperature Lake Stratification, the dividing of lake water
Density stratification Density, another physical characteristic of water, plays an important role in modifying this pattern. In the spring, immediately after ice-out in temperate climates, the water column is cold and nearly isothermal with depth. The intense sunlight of spring is absorbed in the water column, which also heats up as the average daily temperature of the air increases. In the absence of wind, a temperature profile with depth might be expected to resemble decreasing exponentially with depth.
Water differs from most other compounds because it is less dense as a solid than as a liquid. Consequently ice floats, while water at temperatures just above freezing sinks. As most compounds change from a liquid to a solid, the molecules become more tightly packed and consequently the compound is denser as a solid than as a liquid. Water, in contrast, is most dense at 4°C and becomes less dense at both higher and lower temperatures. Because of this density-temperature relationship, many lakes in temperate climates tend to stratify, and separate into distinct layers.
In Spring the lake's ice cover melts. Water above that layer will be cooler, approaching 0°C just under the ice. As the weather warms, the ice melts. The surface water heats up and therefore it decreases in density. When the temperature (density) of the surface water equals the bottom water, very little wind energy is needed to mix the lake completely. This is called turnover. After this spring turnover, the surface water continues to absorb heat and warms. As the temperature rises, the water becomes lighter than the water below. For a while winds may still mix the lake from bottom to top, but eventually the upper water becomes too warm and too buoyant to mix completely with the denser deeper water.
Summer As summer progresses, the temperature (and density) differences between upper and lower water layers become more distinct. Deep lakes generally become physically stratified into three identifiable layers, known as the epilimnion, metalimnion, and hypolimnion. The epilimnion is the upper, warm layer, and is typically well mixed. Below the epilimnion is the metalimnion or thermocline region, a layer of water in which the temperature declines rapidly with depth. The hypolimnion is the bottom layer of colder water, isolated from the epilimnion by the metalimnion. The density change at the metalimnion acts as a physical barrier that prevents mixing of the upper and lower layers for several months during the summer. The depth of mixing depends in part on the exposure of the lake to wind, but is most closely related to the lakes size.
Thermocline Thermocline" is a term often used synonymously with metalimnion, it is actually the plane or surface of maximum rate of decrease of temperature with respect to depth. Thus, the thermocline is the point of maximum temperature change within the metalimnion
Autumn As the weather cools during autumn, the epilimnion cools too, reducing the density difference between it and the Hypolimnion. As time passes, winds mix the lake to greater depths, and the thermocline gradually deepens. When surface and bottom waters approach the same temperature and density, autumn winds can mix the entire lake; the lake is said to "turn over." As the atmosphere cools, the surface water continues to cool until it freezes. A less distinct density stratification than that seen in summer develops under the ice during winter. Most of the water column is isothermal at a temperature of 4°C, which is denser than the colder, lighter water just below the ice. In this case the stratification is much less stable, because the density difference between 0°C and 4°C water is quite small. However, the water column is isolated from wind-induced turbulence by its cap of ice. Therefore, the layering persists throughout the winter.
This pattern (spring turnover summer stratification fall turnover winter stratification) is typical for temperate lakes. Lakes with this pattern of two mixing periods are referred to as dimictic. Many shallow lakes, however, do not stratify in the summer, or stratify for short periods only, throughout the summer. Lakes that stratify and destratify numerous times within a summer are known as polymictic lakes.
Some of the deeper mine pit lakes (>75 meters deep) probably never mix completely to the bottom. To distinguish them from the holomictic (mixing from top to bottom) lakes, these partially mixing lakes are referred to as meromictic. They mix partially, in the sense that they may have extensive mixing periods which go quite deeply into the hypolimnion, but they do not turn over completely, and a layer of bottom water remains stagnant and anoxic for years at a time. The non-mixing bottom layer is known as the monimolimnion and is separated from the mixolimnion (the zone that mixes completely at least once a year) by the chemocline.
The stagnant, and typically anaerobic, monimolimnion has a high concentration of dissolved solids compared to the mixolimnion. Meromictic lakes have large relative depths. These lakes are typically small and sheltered from the wind by the morphology of their basin. The density differences caused by temperature are smaller than density differences due to the high dissolved solids (salts) concentration of the monimolimnion. Large lakes that rarely freeze over are also typically monomictic, mixing throughout the fall, winter and spring and stratifying in the summer.