Great Lakes Ice Coverage Lowest Since 1979


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.

Jia Wang
Jia Wang - NOAA

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.

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Stabenow Introduces Measure To Restore Tax Credits for Renewable Energy.


Senator Debbie Stabenow D-Michigan has introduced a measure to support her policy of ” Grow it Here, Make it Here” to advance Michigan’s bio-based manufacturing industry. The Senator is the author of the original 48C Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit, which expired in 2010. This was a 30 percent tax credit for companies that re-equip or build new facilities for clean energy product manufacturing. Her efforts are to restore that tax credit.

It also extends the Production Tax Credit for wind energy, which supports businesses and utilities that produce electricity from wind. In the U.S., there are more than a half a million jobs related to wind energy. In Michigan, there are 31 facilities manufacturing components for the wind energy industry and six more in the works. The PTC was set to expire at the end of 2012.

Stabenows ammendment would also extend the $1 per gallon biodiesel tax incentive. Biodiesel is produced in nearly every state in the country and last year supported more than 39,000 jobs and $3.8 billion in GDP, according to a recent study conducted by Cardno ENTRIX.

Senator Stabenow’s measure has been endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Iron Mountain Firm to Kick Off Construction of Thumb Loop Transmission Line


MJ Electric of Iron Mountain Michigan has been selected by ITC Holdings to construct Phase One of the “Thumb Loop”.  MJ Electric will construct approximately 62 miles of the Loop starting from the site of the new Bauer substation in Tuscola Township, southwestern Tuscola County, to the new Rapson substation in Huron County, east of Bad Axe in Sigel Township.

Loop to Support 1000’s of Wind Turbines

The project will be the base of transmission system designed to meet the identified maximum wind energy potential of the Thumb region. When complete The Thumb Loop will consist of four substations and 140 miles of transmission lines though Michigan’s Tuscola, Huron, Sanilac, and St. Clair counties. The Thumb Loop is the result of Michigan’s Clean, Renewable and Efficient Energy Act of 2008. The act requires 10 percent of the energy in the state come from renewable fuels by 2015. When completed, the loop will be the “energy superhighway” for wind farm development in the Thumb.

The Thumb Loop is capable of supporting more than 2,800 wind turbines and 5,000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity.  The project will start this spring and conclude in 2013.  The cost been estimated at about $510 million.  The Huron Daily Tribune noted that up to 50 workers will be active during the peak of the project. Local businesses may also be required for concrete suppliers and excavation.

Local Concerns

Landowners with property that may be crossed by the Thumb Loop have expressed concern about how the lines will impact farms throughout the region. One particular issue is concern over how construction of the line would affect central pivot farming, which has increased in use over the past 25 years within Michigan’s agriculturally rich thumb area. ITC has worked with landowners along the route to negotiate easement agreements and establish access points for equipment and materials along the 200-foot-wide transmission corridor.

With its recent merger announcement with Entergy, ITC Holdings will become one of the largest electric transmission companies in the U.S., with over 30,000 miles of transmission lines, spanning from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast.
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Fun in Michigan's Upper Thumb

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