Lake Superior climate change plan

The Superior Watershed Partnership is announcing the release of the Lake Superior Climate Adaptation, Mitigation and Implementation Plan. The plan was developed over the last year to summarize the unique climate challenges and opportunities facing Upper Peninsula communities.

The SWP climate plan provides a summary of current conditions, potential impacts and recommended actions for communities in the Lake Superior Watershed of the Upper Peninsula. The plan includes all, or portions of, the following counties; Marquette, Alger, Luce, Chippewa, Baraga, Houghton, Keweenaw, Ontonagon and Gogebic.

2012 was the hottest year on record and many consider Lake Superior the “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to Great Lakes climate change.  Consider these statistics;

  • In 2012 Lake Superior had the highest surface water temperature ever recorded: 71 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • 2012 was also the first year that Marquette, Michigan was forced to close public beaches due to high bacteria counts directly linked to the high water temperatures of Lake Superior.
  • Lake Superior has experienced a 70% loss in ice cover over the last 40 years.
  • Three Lake Superior communities Duluth, Thunder Bay, Wawa experienced unprecedented severe rain and flooding events in 2012 that caused millions of dollars in damage.
  • A dramatic decline in snowfall has exacerbated drought conditions, impacted lake levels and threatens regional economic sustainability, specifically the tourism  and shipping industries.
  • Slower, more subtle changes include loss of rare sub-arctic plant species, changes in animal migration patterns and changes in forest cover types which could have long term economic impacts for the forest product industry.

However, there is good news too! The Superior Watershed Partnership has developed the Lake Superior Climate Adaptation, Mitigation and Implementation Plan specifically for coastal communities in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The plan also provides recommendations for mitigating and adapting to climate change in the Lake Superior watershed.

The SWP had technical assistance from numerous partners in developing the plan including; Climate Solutions University, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, Headwaters Economics, US Forest Service and Great Lakes Integrated Science Assessments (GLISA).

In addition, the SWP is working directly with coastal communities to identify and prioritize on-the-ground projects and outreach activities to better prepare for a changing climate. For almost twenty years the SWP has been working with communities to promote watershed protection and restoration storm water management, energy conservation, wetland restoration, water conservation, buffer restoration, land use planning, community education and more.

It is worth noting that many of the practices in “watershed planning” are the same practices now recommended in “climate planning”. So, the good news is that many Upper Peninsula communities are already ahead of the game when it comes to preparing for climate change. Marquette is an excellent example!

The City of Marquette in cooperation with the SWP has implemented a wide variety of projects in recent years that have mitigated impacts or better prepared the community for a changing climate. The City of Marquette in cooperation with SWP and other partners will be hosting several public meetings in the coming months to gather community input regarding climate adaptation.

The SWP is providing this climate adaptation, mitigation and implementation plan as the starting point for communities to become more “climate resilient”. The SWP is available to assist communities in identifying and prioritizing specific projects and action steps. Please do not hesitate to contact the SWP for more information 906-228-6095 or