Great Lakes Are Warming Up For a Record

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.

Image Credit: Hkuchera Lake Superior is 10 - 15 degrees warmer than usual...
Lake Superior is 10 - 15 degrees warmer than usual...

“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.

Written by Scott James


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  1. While Lake Superior may be warmer, Lake Michigan, at least by Chicago, has not been particularly warm. The water temperature was 74 after an incredibly hot summer. That is not warmer than normal.

  2. Would love to see temperature data, both historical and current, for all of the lakes included in the posting, especially lake Michigan because i was “swimming” in the lake around the Chicago area last Sunday in 90 degree weather and the lake was so cold that I refused to go in above my thighs!

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