Changes to global climate system will have distinct impacts on Great Lakes region. Our unique northern ecosystem and elements of its beauty and function that we stand to lose with a warmer climate.
Changes to the global climate system influence the local and regional climate and weather in the Great Lakes region. Without swift mitigation, likely climatic changes in the Great Lakes region over the next 100 years include hotter summers, milder winters, and changes in rainfall frequency and intensity.
A combination of warmer temperatures and shifting rainfall patterns will strongly impact the lakes and rivers of the Great Lakes region. In addition, changing water temperatures will change the species well-suited to life in the ecosystems that the aquatic areas of the Great Lakes region provides.
In the short-term, agriculture may benefit from increased atmospheric CO2 concentration and a longer growing season due to warmer temperatures. However, the declining soil moisture and acidic soils may decrease crop yields. In addition, livestock reproduction and crop yield may be reduced by warmer than optimum temperatures.
Changes in climate due to increased greenhouse gasses are expected to alter the composition of ecosystems and species in the Great Lakes region. Areas dominated by wetlands and their associated ecosystems will shrink with the expected increases in strong floods and low summer water levels.
By 2100 the expected number of extremely hot days (over 97 degrees Fahrenheit) in the region is expected to increase. These extreme heat days pose great danger to the elderly and the poor who are particularly vulnerable to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. However, the extremely cold days are expected to decrease.
As climate change directly impacts components of Great Lakes living such as agriculture, lakes, ecosystems, human health, and tourism, these in turn impact the overall strength of the Great Lakes’ economy. Changing climate will require investments in new infrastructure to deal with increased variability in rainfall and adaptation of current farming practices to accommodate changing crop yields.
Of the many types of recreation in the Great Lakes region, those associated with winter sports are likely to be most strongly impacted by climate change. Fewer freezing days, decreased snowpack, and decreased ice cover will cause the season for activities such as snowmobiling, skiing, and ice-fishing to shrink.