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New report shows comprehensive view of climate changes’ effect

satellite map of Michigan, the Great Lakes
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

A new report from the National Wildlife Federation details ways climate change is affecting the Great Lakes states, including Michigan.

The report says there’s more heavy rainfall events, a major decline in ice cover, and warmer average water temperatures. It outlines a number of examples where wildlife and communities are reacting to the changes.

Dr. Amanda Staudt, senior climate scientist at the National Wildlife Federation, wrote the report.

“Folks may not really appreciate the scope of what’s happening when you only hear about perhaps one species or one part of the climate change at a time. But I think when you look at the whole thing it’s really quite compelling,” Staudt said.

Staudt and other scientists hope the report will help people better understand the impact climate change is already having.

In 2011, Ohio had the wettest spring on record. Heavy rainfall events stress storm water infrastructure and increase runoff from farms. The report says that’s led to larger algae blooms, particularly in Lake Erie, where one bloom covered 3,000 square miles.

The report says ice cover of the Great Lakes in the winter has declined 71-percent on average. The reports say that’s left coasts more vulnerable to erosion and led to higher water evaporation rates. More water evaporation has led, in part, to lower lake levels and an increase in lake effect snowfall.

Another change for the Midwest is warming water temperatures. The report says Lake Superior is one of the fastest warming lakes in the world. Warmer water temperatures could improve habitat for warm water fish like smallmouth bass and bluegill but hurt cold water species like northern pike and whitefish.

Warmer water could really benefit the invasive sea lamprey, which preys on all kinds of fish. The lamprey survive better in warmer waters and a longer warmer season.

The report also makes recommendations to slow climate change.

1. Address the underlying cause and cut carbon pollution 50 percent by 2030; 2. Transition to cleaner, more secure sources of energy like wind and solar power while avoiding dirty energy choices like coal; 3. Protect renewable energy and energy efficiency standards at the state level that help in reducing harmful emissions; 4. Safeguard wildlife and their habitats by promoting climate-smart approaches to conservation; 5. Help communities prepare for and respond to the impacts of climate change such as more extreme weather and the threat of invasive species.

Brenda Archambo is a consultant with the federation. She lives in Cheboygan. She points out climate change is affecting more than just wildlife and lake levels.

“Even community events are impacted; there’s been dog-sled races and snowmobile racing, ice-fishing and winter ice festivals that communities rely on have been redesigned or even canceled,” Archambo said.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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