From February 2012 – Ice coverage over the Great Lakes declined an average of 71 percent over the past 40 years, according to a report from the American Meteorological Society. The report, entitled “Temporal and Spatial Variability of Great Lakes Ice Cover, 1973–2010,” used historical satellite measurement from 1973 to 2010 to measure ice coverage in the Great Lakes.Only about 5 percent of the Great Lakes surface froze over this winter, the least since satellite photos first were taken from space. That compares to winters that saw as much as 94 percent ice coverage, last seen in 1979.
Global Warming & Weather Patterns Combine for a 1-2 Punch
The lead researcher and an ice research climatologist Jia Wang, at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor noted, “We are seeing the impact of global warming here in the Great Lakes — but the natural variability is at least as large a factor,” he argued.
Mr. Wang warned, that the loss of Great Lakes ice cover will have a significant impact on the Great Lakes ecosystem. The study’s authors are concerned that the loss of Great Lakes ice could diminish water levels and increase algae blossoms, which could impact water quality and eventually lead to shoreline erosion.
Mr. Wang warning comes just has researchers are looking at severe algae blooms occurring regularly in Lake Erie and Saginaw Bay. (See ThumbWind.com’s earlier post “Algae Bloom in Michigan’s Saginaw Bay Seen from Space”)
The reports timing falls after an earlier article posted on ThumbWind.com that snowfall over the Great Lakes this year may mean lower water levels in the months ahead.