Publication Date August 15, 2017

Here's What Climate Change Is Doing to the Great Lakes

A harmful algal bloom is once again making its presence abundantly known on the surface of Lake Erie, a condition that has now become a yearly nuisance and a dangerous situation for residents, tourists, fish and wildlife. And it's all thanks to climate change.

Rising temperatures, extreme weather, damaged ecosystems and rising sea levels are affecting all parts of the world, and the Great Lakes are no exception. Home to 84 percent of North America's surface fresh waterand 21 percent of the world's fresh water, the lakes are becoming ever more threatened as the Earth's temperatures continue to rise.

Lake Erie has been particularly prone to the impacts of rising carbon dioxide concentrations and warming lake temperatures. Tourism, recreation, fish and wildlife, and shipping are all being impacted by the changing climate, and the situation is expected to only worsen in the decades to come.

According to a Great Lakes Integrated Sciences Assessment by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, future land use and climate change could drastically exacerbate algal blooms on the lakes, killing fish and wildlife, threatening human health and diminishing water quality.

The study notes that the average air temperature in the Great Lakes region has risen by 2 degrees since 1900. In recent years,  the Great Lakes' waters have warmed faster than the surrounding air temperature, with Lake Superior warming twice as fast as the air since 1980.