Will Climate Change Impact Lake Michigan?

Average temperatures could increase by 11 degrees.

A major storm in October 2011 brought up sediment and algae in the Great Lakes. Climate change could increase the number of events with heavy precipitation. Photo from the NASA Earth Observatory.

A major storm in October 2011 brought up sediment and algae in the Great Lakes. Climate change could increase the number of events with heavy precipitation. Photo from the NASA Earth Observatory.

The planet got hot, fast. Each of the last three years were records in terms of mean global temperature over the past 150 years.

On average, the Great Lakes region is two degrees warmer than it was in 1912, according to the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences Assessment, which is produced by the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. By 2100, average temperatures could increase by 11 degrees Fahrenheit. Yes, Lake Michigan could be a lot warmer.

It’s rare, but the planet’s overall climate has changed rapidly in the past. Volcanic explosions and meteor impacts did the trick then. This time around it’s us. We’re using too many fossil fuels, which puts more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and heats up the planet faster than before, according to the fifth assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

A rapidly warming planet introduces an array of impacts that swirl in uncertainty. While experts try to predict what to expect, nothing is set in stone.

“You’re literally looking at an ecological experiment taking place in front of our eyes,” said Jeffrey Andresen, Michigan’s state climatologist. “One thing that we do know about projections for the future is all of them–and there are no exceptions–all of them call for warmer mean temperatures.”

The challenges of predicting environmental impacts didn’t deter one magazine from making the attempt. Michigan came out of that exercise looking good.

Popular Science produced a video last December that concludes that Michigan will be the best place to live in the United States in 2100. That’s because the state is among the areas likely to avoid the increasing threats of droughts, mosquitoes, hurricanes, floods and forest fires facing the rest of the country because of global climate change, according to the magazine. In the coming years, only parts of North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Vermont and Maine would mostly avoid these threats.

“We wanted to give a simple visual to show what some of the near-term consequences of global warming climate change will be,” said Peter Hess, the author of the story.

Because we often think of climate change as something far off, we think it’s something our children will have to contend with, Hess said. Well, no. There will be significant effects in our lifetime.

Is Michigan the place to weather the climate? Tough call.

Michigan fares pretty well compared to other states, Andresen said. Throw in all of the potential problems, such as those mentioned in Popular Science’s video and look at the collective threats, Michigan historically does very well. Wisconsin, too, should not see a negative impact and may actually benefit in its north central region, as a recent analysis found.

But that doesn’t mean the Great Lakes region, or even the parts of the states mentioned in the video, are safe from problems of their own.

Predictions concerning future weather events vary, but both Popular Science and Andresen agree, more extreme weather is coming.

Experts predict erratic precipitation. That could mean flooding. It could mean droughts. Only time will tell.

Among the questions needing answers: How will living things interact with their changing environment? What will change with Great Lakes hydrology? Will there be longer growing seasons?

And what will happen to tourism?

These and other questions will be explored in future stories.

This story was originally published by Great Lakes Echo. Additions by Urban Milwaukee.

2 thoughts on “Echo: Will Climate Change Impact Lake Michigan?”

  1. Bart Taylor says:

    Scientific evidence? Hogwash, say I !!!! What do scientists really know; I mean, what have scientists ever really invented or proved ????? In fact, I ask the question that no one else has the strength & courage to ask—- what are scientists, anyways—- wizards, magicians? Do not panic, all is well !!!!! No, we have nothing to fear from these “global warming and potential environmental disaster goofballs”—– because Trump will save us! Trump knows more about science, than the scientists, trust him; in fact, were it not for Kim Jong-un, the great & enlightened leader of that benevolent society known as North Korea, Trump would be the most knowledgeable and brilliant mind on our planet !!!! So we are going to be OK, by just doing nothing, or better yet, having Trump do it for us. As long as we as a civilization continue to pour industrial waste into our water, chemicals into our food supply, hunt and de-habitat species into extinction, and breed ourselves into famine, we will do just fine !!!!!!

  2. Thanks for the laugh, Bart! Went to Guy McPherson talk Wednesday this week. Be calm, Seek excellence, Do it with love!

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