Climate Change Impacts and Lake Superior

LS Feb 2012

Researchers with NOAA/Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory and the University of Michigan found that there is a significant downward trend in ice coverage from 1973 to the present for all of the Great Lakes, with Lake Superior experiencing a 79% loss of total ice cover.


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.  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 impacts of climate changes like these and other changes could significantly affect the human and natural environments in the Lake Superior basin.

climate_change_impacts_screen_shotJanuary 2014:  The Lake Superior Binational Program’s Superior Work Group (SWG) just released its final report called Lake Superior Climate Change Impacts and AdaptationThis Report synthesizes available science and identifies adaptation strategies and actions for Lake Superior ecosystems. This information will inform future binational lakewide strategies under the Lakewide Action and Management Plan.

Please also use the information to help and inform your own organization’s or businesses’ work on climate change adaptation activities and actions.

The Report provides a structure to track and share climate science related to Lake Superior, and contributes to our shared commitment to assemble, assess and report on existing scientific information concerning Lake Superior.   We would appreciate any feedback you may have on this Report, i.e., its utility, scope, science and strategies. Use our Speak Out button to let us know what you think.

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.

Available Webinars
Planning for the Future: Municipalities, Marinas, and Climate Change Impacts from Lake Superior Binational Forum on Vimeo.
Climate Change Impacts on Wildlife webinar (May 29, 2014) sponsored by Ohio State University with speakers talking about how Great Lakes animal and birds’ populations are changing due to observed climate changes.
Federal Agencies and Climate Change Programs
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Community Climate Change Network – U.S. EPA
Environment Canada
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)
Graham Sustainability Institute – An excellent interactive map to show how climate changes are affecting the Great Lakes region. – August 2013
Organization Sources
Climate Change Response Framework
Climate Central
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
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
Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light
Michigan Interfaith Power and Light
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
White House warned on imminent Arctic ice death spiral – The dramatic and unprecedented melting of sea ice in the Arctic has caught the eye of the US Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon. – May 2013
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
Forest and Water Climate Adaptation: A Plan for Alger County, MichiganSeptember 2011
    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.