Impacts of Climate Change on Lake Superior, USA – May 11th, 201347.0N 86.3W
Researchers have discovered that Lake Superior is one of the most rapidly warming lakes in the world. The lake has lost 79% of its ice cover and lake levels have fluctuated below the long-term average since an extreme drought beginning in 1997-98. The impacts of climate changes like these and other changes could significantly affect the human and natural environments in the Lake Superior basin.
Changes in the amounts of snow melt and rain affect water levels in Lake Superior and inland lakes. These changes have implications for shoreline management and protection including uncertainty about changes to erosion processes.
Increased stormwater runoff and sedimentation of rivers, streams, and bays during extreme flooding, as seen in Duluth, Thunder Bay, and Wawa in the summer of 2012. The economic viability of harbors and marinas may be at risk when water levels change dramatically. For example, lowered water levels may require expensive dredging to maintain boating and shipping operations.
Increased temperatures impact ecological functions and put all natural resources, associated values, and benefits at potential risk. Higher temperatures may also impact the economy and Lake Superior basin communities.
Increased evaporation of surface waters due to drought or reduced precipitation affects water levels, which can reduce recreational boating and the shipping industry.
Decreased ice cover due to higher winter temperatures affects recreational fishing and the tourist industry, water transportation such as ferries, and helps to keep the water warmer for a longer time, which can lead to a negative feedback loop.
Extreme weather events such as flooding, high winds, or significant snowfalls may result in effects on human health and well-being, as well as cause negative economic impacts (click here for more information).