EcoAlert: Lake Superior Heats Up -“The canary in the coal mine?”

PicturedRocks2_resized Lake Superior, the world's largest freshwater system warms, is poised to provide a glimpse of what is happening on a more global level. "The Great Lakes in a lot of ways have always been a canary in the coal mine," Cameron Davis, the senior adviser to the U.S. EPA on the Great Lakes, said last week. "Not just for the region or this country, but for the rest of the world."

Lake Superior, which is the largest, deepest and coldest of the five lakes, is serving as the "canary for the canary," The New York Times reports Davis said at a public meeting of the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force last week, pointing to recent data trends.

Total ice cover on the lake has shrunk by about 20 percent over the past 37 years, he said. Though the change has made for longer, warmer summers, it's a problem because ice is crucial for keeping water from evaporating and it regulates the natural cycles of the Great Lakes. This year, the waters in Lake Superior are on track to reach — and potentially exceed — the lake's record-high temperatures of 68 degrees Fahrenheit, which occurred in 1998.

Analysis of several buoys that measure temperatures in the lake reveal that the waters are some 15 degrees warmer than they would normally be at this time of year, Jay Austin, a professor of physics at the University of Minnesota, Duluth's Large Lakes Observatory, said in a recent interview.

Casey Kazan via The New York Times 

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