Lake Superior and Climate Change

November 11, 2010

In the heart of North America is the world’s largest concentration of fresh water, the Great Lakes system.  The system has been resilient to a myriad of human insults over the last 2 centuries, primarily because of the remote and relatively untouched nature of Lake Superior, the largest of the lakes, and the source of most of the Great Lakes water.

In recent years, the impact of climate change has been more and more evident for those of us who spend time on Lake Superior and love the lake.  If climate change unfolds the way most experts believe it will, the abundant water supply available to the American midwest will become an all the more critical resource in coming decades. Understanding how the system works, and moving to reduce impacts where we can will be a critical priority.

Time-lapse sequence of satellite images of Lake Superior taken between March 2009 and May 2010. The images were posted daily on NOAA’s Coast Watch page (‪‬­modis.cgi/modis?region=s&page=1). Notice how the lake has ice cover in the early part of the video (winter of 2008-09) but has no ice cover during the winter of 2009-10. That’s a big part of the reason why this summer Lake Superior’s surface reached the highest temperature ever recorded.


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