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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).

 

Impacts of Climate Change on Lake Superior, USA – May 11th, 2013

47.0N 86.3W

May 11th, 2013 Category: Image of the day, Lakes

USA – May 10th, 2013

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).

Sediments in Black Bay of Lake Superior, USA and Canada

47.7N 86.9W

May 1st, 2012 Category: Lakes

USA and Canada - April 28th, 2012

Lake Superior, the largest of the five Great Lakes of North America, is bounded to the north by the Canadian province of Ontario and the U.S. state of Minnesota, and to the south by the U.S. states of Wisconsin and Michigan. Here, the lake appears mostly sediment free, with the exception of some greenish sediments visible in Black Bay, along the lake’s northern shores. Visible north of the bay is the rounded Lake Nipigon.

Lake Superior Perhaps Affected by Climate Change

47.7N 86.9W

April 4th, 2012 Category: Climate Change, Lakes

USA - April 3rd, 2012

Stretching across this image is Lake Superior, the largest of the five traditionally-demarcated Great Lakes of North America. Visible to its north, in the upper right corner, is the frozen Lake Nipigon.

Despite being the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area, and the world’s third-largest freshwater lake by volume (it is deep enough to hold the combined water in all the other Great Lakes), over the last five years scientists have reported that Lake Superior is losing water and getting warmer. The changes to the lake could be signs of climate change, although scientists aren’t sure.

Superior’s level is at its lowest point in eight decades, and the average water temperature has surged 4.5 degrees since 1979, significantly above the 2.7-degree rise in the region’s air temperature during the same period.

Water levels also have receded on the other Great Lakes since the late 1990s. But the suddenness and severity of Superior’s changes worry many in the region. Shorelines are dozens of yards wider than usual, giving sunbathers wider beaches but also exposing mucky bottomlands and rotting vegetation.

 

Snow-covered Landscape Around Lake Superior, USA and Canada

47.7N 86.9W

January 11th, 2012 Category: Lakes

USA and Canada - December 26th, 2011

Visible at the top of this image is Lake Superior, the largest of the five Great Lakes of North America. It is bounded to the north by the Canadian province of Ontario and the U.S. state of Minnesota, and to the south by the U.S. states of Wisconsin and Michigan. Here, the land surrounding it in both countries is dusted with snow.

It is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area if Lake Huron and Lake Michigan are considered to be two lakes. Its surface area is 31,700 square miles (82,103 km2). It is also the world’s third-largest freshwater lake by volume, containing 2,900 cubic miles (12,100 km³) of water. This means that there is enough water in Lake Superior to cover the entire land mass of North and South America with 1 foot (30 cm) of water.