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Researchers see significant decline in
Great Lakes ice

Published: Tuesday, March 13, 2012

In only four decades, the Great Lakes ice sheet has declined precipitously, according to a new study. Using Coast Guard scans, satellite photos and observations from 1973 to 2010, researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in
Ann Arbor, Mich., found that the total area of the Great Lakes covered by ice is about 71 percent less today than it was in the early 1970s.

"We are seeing the impact of global warming here in the Great Lakes -- but the natural variability is at least as large a factor," said lead researcher Jia Wang.

The rate of decline varies year to year and lake to lake, the study found. Ice on Lake Ontario has shrunk about 88 percent over the period of study, while Lake St. Clair, between Lakes Erie and Huron, has seen only a 37 percent decrease.

This year appears to show even more dramatic change. Although as much as 94 percent of the lakes' surface was covered with ice during the winter of 1979, less than 5 percent appears to have frozen over the course of the 2011-2012 winter.

Researchers worry that the changes could have broad ecosystem effects. Diminished ice coverage speeds wintertime evaporation, reducing the lakes' water levels. This, in turn, can spur increased algae blooms, damage water quality and accelerate the erosion of the surrounding coastlines (MSNBC, March
10). -- NM

Reprinted from ClimateWire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. 202-628-6500


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Reprinted from ClimateWire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. 202-628-6500.

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