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Lake Superior Feeling the Heat: Climate Change and the Great Lakes of North America

47.0N 86.3W

June 14th, 2013 Category: Lakes AVHRRMetOp

USA and Canada – June 14th, 2013

The Great Lakes are feeling the heat from climate change. As the world’s largest freshwater system warms, it is poised to systematically alter life for local wildlife and the tribes that depend on it, and the warming could also provide a glimpse of what is happening on a more global level.

Total ice cover on Lake Superior (center), which is the largest, deepest and coldest of the five lakes, has shrunk by about 20 percent over the past 37 years. Though the change has made for longer, warmer summers, it’s a problem because ice is crucial for keeping water from evaporating and it regulates the natural cycles of the Great Lakes (click here for more information).


Lake Nipigon Near the Great Lakes, Canada

49.7N 88.6W

May 29th, 2013 Category: Lakes

Canada – May 28th, 2013

The Lake Nipigon basin lies north of the Lake Superior basin and was the hydrological link between glacial Lake Agassiz and the Great Lakes during part of the last deglaciation. A sequence of glaciolacustrine sediments, composed mainly of silt-clay rhythmites and sand, was deposited in the offshore waters of glacial Lake Nipigon by overflow from Lake Agassiz and meltwater from the retreating glacier margin. The timing of the linkage of Lake Agassiz with the Great Lakes, and the routing of meltwater to the oceans, is of considerable importance to global change (click here for more information).

Rising Temperatures in the Great Lakes, USA and Canada

44.7N 82.7W

May 26th, 2013 Category: Lakes

USA – May 25th, 2013

The climate of the Great Lakes is changing. Higher global temperatures change patterns of seasons and precipitation at Great Lakes regional and local levels. These uncertainties impact ecology, economy, and social well-being.

Average temperatures increased by 2.3°F (1.3°C) from 1968 to 2002 in the Great Lakes region. By 2050, an average air temperature increase of 1.8 to 5.4°F (1 to 3°C) is projected. By 2100, an average air temperature increase of 3.6 to 11.2 °F (2 to 6.2°C) is projected. Winter temperatures will likely experience a greater increase than the summer months.

Lake temperatures have been increasing faster than surrounding air temperatures. Both inland lakes and the Great Lakes will likely experience longer warm seasons. Warmer water surface temperatures may increase the stratification of the lakes, decrease vertical mixing in the spring-winter, and lead to more low-oxygen, “dead zones” and toxic algal blooms.

Great Lakes Region and Climate Change, USA and Canada

45.8N 85.8W

May 25th, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Lakes

USA – May 24th, 2013

The Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada is a land of striking glacial legacies: spectacular lakes, vast wetlands, fertile southern soils, and rugged northern terrain forested in spruce and fir. It is also home to 60 million people whose actions can profoundly affect the region’s ecological bounty and the life-sustaining benefits it provides.

Now that the world is entering a period of unusually rapid climate change, driven largely by human activities that release heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the responsibility for  safeguarding our natural heritage is becoming urgent. Growing evidence suggests that the climate of the Great Lakes region is already changing: winters are getting shorter, annual average temperatures are growing warmer, and extreme heat events are occurring more frequently. The duration of lake ice cover is decreasing as air and water temperatures rise. Heavy precipitation events, both rain and snow, are becoming more common (click here for more information).

Climate Change and Less Ice Cover on Great Lakes, USA and Canada

44.7N 87W

April 3rd, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Lakes

USA – April 2nd, 2013

As the northern hemisphere spring begins, sediments can be seen in Lake Erie (bottom right) and along the southern shores of Lake Michiagan (left). Some ice can be seen in Green Bay (upper left), an arm of Lake Michigan located along the south coast of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the east coast of Wisconsin, and in North Channel (top), the body of water along the north shore of Lake Huron, in the Canadian province of Ontario. It stretches approximately 160 nautical miles and is bordered on the east by Georgian Bay (upper right).

Analysts say less ice cover is leading to erosion of Great Lakes shoreline. Whether you believe in global warming or not, changes are happening in the Great Lakes at all times of the year. The Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation says climate change is behind a lack of ice cover on Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, and that this is part of a long-term trend that first became noticeable in the early 1970s. Researchers say we’re seeing 71 per cent less ice in the Lakes than we did in 1973.

The lack of ice permits heavy wave action that contributes to beach and other shoreline erosion, since the heaviest wave action on the Lakes takes place during the winter months. The reduced ice cover allows the water to absorb sunlight instead of reflecting it back to the atmosphere. The absorption prevents ice from forming as the water becomes warmer (click here for more information).

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