Lake, Rainfall & Water Supply

Background Information

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. Many fish that prefer cooler waters such as trout may decrease, while bass and bluegill are expected to extend their current ranges northward. Accompanying this shift, will be new invasive species, increased lake stratification which depletes the dissolved oxygen necessary for fish to survive, increased algae, and a loss of winter ice.

Current models suggest that rainfall in the Great Lakes region will become more variable as atmospheric carbon dioxide rises. The implication of this increased variability is that the region is expected to have fewer days of rain. However, when it does rain it will tend to be more intense. This is expected to lead to increases in the frequency and duration of both droughts and floods. This will strongly impact the economy of the region through the need for increased infrastructure capable of handling larger rain events, and losses in farm crops among others.

Suggested Activities

  1. Changes in Lake Ice: Ecosystem Response to Global Change
  2. COSEE Activity on Great Lakes

Intended Learning Outcomes

  • graph and interpret ice cover over time (time chart/Magnuson data)
  • describe effects on lakes of floods vs erosion vs. soft runoff
  • describe climate impact on lake/river recreation i.e. trout streams
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