The Great Lakes have their shores full with issues around the invasive Asian carp, but that’s not the only danger facing the region. With 20% of the world’s freshwater, the health of the Great Lakes is critical- and this summer all of the lakes are registering temperatures far above what’s normal for the end of July. Lake Superior alone is estimated to be 10 to 15 degrees warmer than normal, and with another month of summer warming, experts think they could reach record-braking highs.
“All of the lakes are either at or approaching their normal temperatures for late August. They’re already at what we would have expected to be their peak temperatures for the summer, and we have several more weeks of warming to go.” — Professor Jay Austin, University of Minnesota’s Large Lakes Observatory
So, why is this happening? For one, the Great Lakes area had a shortened winter with little ice forming on the water, and then they saw a hotter spring than normal. Some will point to climate change and global warming, and that may very well be the case. But Bill Deedler of the National Weather Service isn’t ready to say so:
“We have seen more extremes in our weather in the last 10 years — snowier winters and hotter summers — because of the overall patterns in the hemisphere. This isn’t out of the ordinary, but it can be seen as an anomaly.” — Bill Deedler, National Weather Service historian and forecaster
What is certain is that the warmer water isn’t a good thing for the native fish, as higher temperatures throw off the fish spawning. And warmer temperatures chase fish away from surface and shore waters, making them harder to catch, which is bad news for restaurants and commercial fishing businesses. hurts some businesses. The warmer temperatures are also making the reintroduction of sturgeon into the Ontonagon River difficult. The warmer temperatures also caused the thick green algae that grows in the lakes to start earlier in the summer, and there is more of it than usual.
Whether caused by climate change or a cyclical anomaly, the significantly higher temperatures of the waters in the Great Lakes are changing the ecosystem- something we should all take note of.