If you think summers along the North Shore are getting warmer, you’re right. Average air and water temperatures in the Great Lakes region are higher than they used to be, and this year, Lake Superior is on track to break its record-high water temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit, set in 1998.
Warm water temperatures might be good news for swimmers, but scientists and others in the region are worried about it. Researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Large Lakes Observatory in Duluth say that since 1980, Lake Superior’s surface water temperature in summer has increased about 2 degrees Fahrenheit per decade, and that air temperatures are rising at a faster rate in the Great Lakes region than they are globally. Cameron Davis, senior Great Lakes advisor to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recently referred to the Great Lakes as “a canary in the coal mine” in regard to climate change, “not just for this region, or the country, but for the rest of the world.”
The impacts of a changing climate on the Great Lakes region over the next century are predicted to be significant, and include warmer air and water temperatures, more frequent storms, droughts, and extreme heat events, reduced ice cover, lower lake levels, and declines in coldwater fish species such as lake trout, brook trout, and whitefish.
Many of these effects are already being observed, and agencies in the U.S. and Canada are working to understand and anticipate the impacts of climate change on the Great Lakes, and to identify what actions can be taken now to forestall the most severe consequences.
More information on climate change and the Great Lakes is available from a variety of sources including the University of Minnesota’s Large Lakes Observatory
, and in a report
from the Union of Concerned Scientists, entitled “Confronting Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region: Impacts on Our Communities and Ecosystems.”