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Lake Superior's New Climate Change Reality

Lake Superior's New Climat Change Reality by Marc A. Cirigliano

Lake Superior 1Severely flooded areas of Fond du Lac, Minnesota, shown on June 24, 2012

REUTERS/Matthew Schofield/U.S. Coast Guard

As we had written a few weeks ago in The Eastern Woodlands Fusion, "If you live near one of the Great Lakes, you no doubt have seen lakeside property owners up in arms about the high water levels, with some of them experiencing serious property erosion and, in some cases, being out-and-out flooded with serious damage to their homes."

As we pointed out, "The Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Program (GLISA) has found, 'since 1900, total annual precipitation has increased by 11% in the U.S. Great Lakes region.'"

That is a lot more water than we Great Lakers are used to.

In a follow-up article we reported that Great Lake levels were not going to see any immediate relief from flood-like shorelines:

Writing for the Detroit Free Press, Keith Matheny says, "It appears 2020 won't bring relief from high Great Lakes water levels – and they could be even higher than this past record-shattering spring and summer." 

The following graphic explains the scenario:

 
Great Lakes Water Levels
 
This week, we have Ron Meador writing about Lake Superior for MinnPost:
 
Now the lake and its shoreline communities are experiencing a series of climate impacts that run queasily parallel to the problems of saltwater coasts that have become familiar in recent decades: storms of unusual fierceness and destruction, intensifying rainfall patterns, accelerating coastal erosion and infrastructure losses, overwhelmed wastewater treatment systems, icky (and potentially harmful) algal blooms.

Meador tells us that long-time journalist Peter Annin, author of “The Great Lakes Water Wars” and director of the Mary Griggs Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation, gave the members of the International Joint Commition, the IJC, a report in which he said that Lake Superior's south shore region may now be in a “new normal” phase of climate and weather patterns.

This new pattern includes:

  • Stronger storms that pour down precipitation that is "at least 37 percent greater than what was 'normal' in the mid-1900s," with water now overwhelming an outdated and inadequate culvert system.
  • Algal blooms, for "in August 2018 the lake grew a five-day bloom that stretched eastward from Superior, Wisconsin, all the way past the Chequamegon Peninsula to Long Island, visible from downtown Ashland." Once thought to be too cold for algal blooms, this new problem consists of "Dolichospermum lemmermannii, known for blooming in colder water (like alpine lakes in Italy) and also for producing a variety of toxins."
  • Industrial Scale Pollution as rainwater run-off from mining sites near the Lake now includes both acid and, quite frighteningly, asbestos.

So, the "new climate" of Lake Superior produces the flooding that we see in the above photo. It now has the following three problems, which, because all the lakes in the system are connected, are now problems for the other Great Lakes:

  1. Much more precipitation for an inadequate culvert system to drain the surrounding land.
  2. Water now producing poisonous algal blooms threatening our health and that of all wildlife. 
  3. The added threat of toxic run-off that incudes acid and asbestos.

This is our new Lake Superior. It is also our soon-to-be new Great Lakes reality.

A glass of asbestos tainted water, anyone?

 

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