The Great Lakes Are Suffering

BY ON January 16, 2013

Winter Pond

There’s nothing like a “heat wave” in the middle of January to make me think about my childhood winters. I rarely recall winters that didn’t include deep snow drifts, school closings and frigid temperatures. I live right in the middle of Ohio’s “snow belt.” Winter just isn’t complete without a few months of snow covering the ground. And yet, in recent years, we haven’t gotten a significant snowfall until after the holidays. My children’s winters are filled with rainy days that create flooding during a season where we once saw snow and ice.

As we now know, 2012 was the warmest year on record, thanks to a global warming trend rocketing into place with the steadily rising carbon emissions. Within the last 15 years, the Continental US has experienced seven of the top 10 hottest years on record. Record breaking heat all over the US was common in 2012, and as a result, we are experiencing fallout in our health. Everything from allergies to West Nile to Influenza has been stronger, longer lasting, and more intense than was expected. You see, when the ground and waters do not get the opportunity for a hard freeze throughout the winter months, heat reliant bacteria are not killed off, and plant based allergens have a longer span to irritate their victims.

Here in the Midwest, the climate is influenced by the Great Lakes, and the simple fact that we are so far from the oceans and their temperature moderating effects. We experience more frequent heat waves that are more dramatic and long lasting. These heat waves are determined in part by air emissions. As the climate changes, we often focus on how the summers are hotter and the crops are impacted, but let’s not forget the Lakes suffer through the winter as well. We are experiencing a decline in lake ice.

As the temperatures continue to rise, and the snow in my yard melts, the time the lake water spends frozen is decreasing. For every 10 years, there is a decrease of 1-2 days of ice cover on the water. In general, the lake water has been freezing later in the year and thawing earlier. This trend is consistent throughout the lakes and rivers in the Northern Hemisphere…not just in the Midwest. Additionally, the precipitation itself has changed. As I mentioned earlier, our winters now include far more rain than snow.

Our kids don’t understand that global warming is to blame for their snowman melting, but their parents know the climate is changing. We called for people to make small changes last year; this year we are calling for a big change. As long as we live on this Earth, there will be weather determined by climate.


TOPICS: Environment, Great Lakes, Heat and Extreme Weather, Ohio, Pollution, Renewable Energy