Many climatologists and scientists around the world have determined through research that climate changes are happening and creating challenging changes in long-term weather patterns and phenomena. 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.
The Lake Superior Binational Forum has developed this web page to offer information about climate change in the basin. We’ve compiled information from science-based agencies and organizations about real and potential physical, biological, social, and economic impacts in the basin. For example, these changes have already been observed over the past several decades:
- 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.
February 2013: The White House Council of Environmental Quality has officially released EPA’s draft Climate Change Adaptation Plan. The White House press release about the availability of the Climate Change Adaptation Plans (and the Strategic Sustainability Performance Plans) by all federal departments and agencies can be found here.
Download the plan from EPA’s climate change website
A 60-day public review and comment period will begin February 8, 2013, once a Federal Register Notice has been released.
|Federal Agencies and Climate Change Programs
|U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)|
|Community Climate Change Network – U.S. EPA|
|National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)|
|U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service|
|National Park Service
|Lake Superior National Parks and their specific action plans.|
|U.S. Global Change Research Program – Federal Advisory Committee Draft Climate Assessment Report Released for Public Review
A 60-person Federal Advisory Committee called the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee has overseen the development of this draft climate report.
|National Wildlife Federation produced a report “Wildlife in a Warming World: Confronting the Climate Crisis” – Case studies from across the country illustrating how global warming is altering wildlife habitats. – 2013|
|ClimateWire — “Great Lakes community defined by ice ponders life without it.” – March 2013|
|National Park Service Climate Change Response Program|
|Apostle Island National Park Service – Links & Resources|
|Great Lakes Parks in Peril – The Threats of Climate Disruption|
|Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)|
|Climate Change Response Framework|
|Coastal Climate Adaptation|
|Natural Resources Defense Council|
|What Could Changing Great Lakes Water Levels Mean for our Coastal Communities? from The Nature Conservancy|
|Resources for Local Governments|
|Survey Says. . .Great Lakes Coastal Communities|
|Adapting to Climate Change: A Planning Guide for State Coastal Managers|
|Great Lakes Climate Tools from the Nature Conservancy|
|Resources for the Faith Community
|Can Faith Slow Climate Change? – by Scientific American|
|People of Faith: What Can We Do? – by 350.org|
|Care of Creation|
|Upper Peninsula Earthkeepers – a multi-faith coalition in Michigan|
|Wisconsin Interfaith Power and Light – The mission shall be to inform, train, and activate people of all faiths and faith communities to take concrete steps in response to climate change through the promotion of energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy in order to protect Earth’s ecosystems, safeguard public health, and ensure just, sufficient and sustainable energy for all. – January 2013|
|The Interfaith Declaration on Climate Change|
|Shrubbery on the March in Quebec, December 10, 2011|
|Multi-Media Resources (videos, radio programs, webinars, PowerPoints, etc.)|
|‘The Agenda with Steve Paikin’: Trouble on the Great Lakes. Why are Great Lakes water levels so low? – (video) March 2013|
|‘Climate change hits mightiest of the Great Lakes‘ WBEZ Chicago radio offers a feature on Lake Superior’s climate and observed changes (audio and print version with photographs)|
|“Chasing Ice” – An award-winning documentary shows glaciers on the polar ice caps breaking apart calving in extremely large formations. – 2012|
|The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change – Wunderground weather has an extensive section on climate change including many short and longer videos about extreme weather.|
|Extreme Weather: Impacts of Climate Change – A 90-second video by the Natural Resources Defense Council that tallies the climate changes seen in the U.S. in 2012 alone.|
|Committees Examine Extreme Minnesota Weather – A presentation at a joint meeting of the Minnesota House Capital Investment and Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Finance committees to discuss extreme weather resiliency. – by Dr. Mark Seeley, University of Minnesota-Extension Climatologist|
|Living on Earth, Public Radio International: The U.S. government recently released a draft of its third National Climate Assessment, saying that human activity is the primary cause of climate change. The report warns that if emissions go unchecked global temperatures could rise as much as ten degrees by the end of the century. It also details the impacts global warming is expected to have, and has already had, on American lives. – January 2013|
|Lake Superior Project: WTIP Community Radio station in Grand Marais, Minnesota, produced a series of audio feature stories about Lake Superior and climate change. – January 2012|
|Ohio State University Webinars
The OSU Climate Change Outreach Team is a partnership among multiple departments within The Ohio State University. The team’s goal is to help localize the climate change issue by bringing related research and resources to residents of Ohio and the Great Lakes region. – January 2013
|131 Years of Global Warming in 26 Seconds from Climate Central|
|In this three-part video series, scientists at the Large Lakes Observatoryin Duluth, Minn., explore the implications of climate change and other human activities for Lake Superior and the African great lakes.|
|Educators & Kids Information Sources|
|Climate Kids – NASA’s Eyes on the Earth|
|An EPA Website for Kids and Climate Change|
|The Wisconsin Library offers a great list of fun national sites just for kids!|
|Environment Canada’s Youth Zone|
|Environment & Energy Publishing (E&E) is the leading source for comprehensive, daily coverage of environmental and energy policy and markets. – January 2012|
|Click on your state on this map to read how climate is changing where you live.|
|Burning Fuel Particles Do More Damage to Climate Than Thought, Study Says – from New York Times – January 2013|
|Warming Lakes: Climate Change and Variability Drive Low Water Levels on the Great Lakes from National Geographic – November 2012|
|Lake Superior, a Huge Natural Climate Change Gauge, Is Running a Fever – from New York Times – dated July 19, 2010|
|The Case of the Disappearing Great Lake – USA Today, 2007|
|Forum Public Input Session|
|A public input session of the Lake Superior Binational Forum was held on January 29th, 2010 in Duluth, Minnesota and dealt with climate change.To access all of the presentations made at the session, click on => “Monitoring Climate Change: How Can We Tell It’s Happening in the Lake Superior Basin and Can We Do Anything About It?”|
|Information for Minnesota||Information for Wisconsin|
|Coastal Climate Adaptation for Minnesota||Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts|
|The Will Steger Foundation||Coastal Climate Adaptation for Wisconsin|
|Lake Superior Project – WTIP Community Radio Station in Grand Marais, Minnesota – A series of audio feature stories about Lake Superior and climate change. – January 2012||Climate Wisconsin|
|MN Sea Grant Climate Research and Resources||Wisconsin Interfaith Power & Light (WIPL) The mission of Wisconsin Interfaith Power and Light: To inform, train, and activate people of all faiths and faith communities to take concrete steps in response to climate change through the promotion of energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy in order to protect Earth’s ecosystems, safeguard public health, and ensure just, sufficient and sustainable energy for all. – January 2013|
|Climate Change and Health Impacts by the Minnesota Dept. of Health – January 2013||Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine‘s 8-page supplement, “Adapting to Wisconsin’s Changing Climate: Science and Collaboration”- February 2013|
|Information for Michigan||Information for Ontario|
|One Hot Year for 2012 by the Michigan Environment Report, Audio Feature Story: January 2013||Climate Change Progress Report|
|Superior Watershed Partnership – Marquette||The Ministry of the Environment offers a climate change mapping tool.|
|Earthkeepers/Cedar Tree Institute - Follow the work of a multi-faith coalition in the Upper Peninsula as churches collaborate to minimize carbon footprints. – Marquette||EcoSuperior – an Environmental Education Center – Thunder Bay|
|Great Lakes Integrated Sciences + Assessments (GLISA) – GLISA facilitates smart responses to climate variability and change.||The Ontario Centre for Climate Impacts and Adaptation Resources is a university sponsored research hub.|
|Climate Change and Water Levels|
|All five Great Lakes and many inland lakes, rivers, and streams in the Lake Superior basin are below their annual average water level. In 2012, Lakes Huron and Michigan levels hit record lows, making shipping and recreational boating dangerous and difficult.The international Joint Commission is responsible for regulating water levels in the Great Lakes. The IJC has required an International Upper Great Study (IUGLS) be developed to analyze why Great Lakes waters are so low. Preliminary results contribute the cause mainly to climate changes, especially widespread drought conditions, higher temperatures which increase evaporation, and reduced ice cover. To follow the study and progress: Click here.|
|NOAA has extensive information about water levels in the Great Lakes: Click here.|