New report outlines climate change effects in Great Lakes region

New report outlines climate change effects in Great Lakes region

A collaborative group from the University of Michigan and Michigan State University have released a new report on the predicted effects of climate change on the Great Lakes region.

The Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessment Center released a synthesis report Tuesday summarizing the regional impact of climate change detailed in the most recent U.S. National Climate Assessment. Some of the trends outlined in the report are already being seen in the area. While extreme storms have been increasing in the southern part of the Great Lakes basin, the northern end, including the Upper Peninsula, is experiencing a different set of impacts.

“One of the immediate concerns that we’re seeing is, in general, over a number of years, sort of a slow loss of winter,” said Daniel Brown, a GLISA Climate Research Associate and one of the authors of the report. “So a number of the recreational activities, the way people sort of identify with the region, that sense of place, of being proud Yoopers and embracing the snow and the winter, a lot of those activities are changing, and communities are having to adapt and sort of market themselves as being year–round outdoor places as opposed to winter places.”

The report notes many changes that are expected to be brought about by warmer temperatures, including increased heat waves, changes in patterns of mosquito– and tick–borne illness, shifts in forest composition, and long–term negative effects on agricultural productivity. Researchers also expect declining ice cover to extend the Great Lakes commercial navigation season.

The report adds that while the region uses significantly more energy per GDP dollar and produces more per capita greenhouse gas emissions than national averages, it is starting to realize some of its large potential to utilize cleaner energy sources. Many of the negative changes outlined can be slowed by adaptations at the local level.

“A lot of the changes and the impacts of those changes that we see coming thirty years from now, by making adaptation efforts at the local scale, we can dramatically alter and reduce the magnitude of larger scale changes in climate,” Brown added. “Even though we might be seeing more storms, more runoff, greater risk of algal blooms in Lake Superior, by changes in land use, by infrastructure design in our local communities, we can mitigate much of that risk in the near term.”

The GLISA synthesis report was released in conjunction with the three day climate change conference currently underway at the University of Michigan.

To read the full document, head to GLISA’s website.