Experts say climate change could impact Great Lakes

Alex Doty • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:17 AM

“I think it’s an ongoing discussion, but it’s also a lot of ongoing efforts by a lot of different people,” said Cheryl Mendoza, associate director of Freshwater Future.

According to Mendoza, who lives in Spring Lake, there are a myriad of concerns regarding impacts on the Great Lakes and Lake Michigan as climate changes. Those concerns include increased storm activity leading to more runoff, more sediment movement from rivers and streams to the lake, and even increased winter evaporation as lake temperatures rise and ice cover becomes infrequent.

An example of how runoff could harm the lake is if there was increased storm activity in the Spring Lake area. With increased water runoff into Spring Lake, more contaminants and sediment could eventually make it to Lake Michigan.

And Mendoza said there is already evidence of change in the Great Lakes system. A study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Madison found that, in Lake Superior, surface water temperatures have increased twice as fast as air temperatures since the 1980s, she said.

“This could mean we could have some big changes,” she said.

Mendoza said while climate change is an issue, there is still work to be done to offset impacts. Aside from the obvious — such as reducing carbon footprints and emissions — she said people can plant rain gardens to store excess runoff, and also look at different types of vegetation that would be suitable for a slightly warmer climate.

Cameron Davis, senior adviser to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson on Great Lakes issues, also said climate change is an important Great Lakes issue.

Davis had been the president and CEO of the Alliance for the Great Lakes when Obama tapped him for the czar post in June 2009.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

Tom Jackson of the Sandusky Register contributed to this report.

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