Sometimes being first isn’t anything to brag about.
News broke late last year that Lake Superior was the fastest warming of all the Great Lakes, according to a study done by a team of international researchers and authored primarily by a York University professor. The study also stated that Superior was the second fastest warming of the lakes the researchers studied globally. It clocked in behind Sweden’s Lake Fracksjon.
You might not feel it when you take a plunge off your dock in the summer, but it’s true. Why is Superior warming faster than smaller, shallower Great Lakes?
CBC summarized: “One [reason] is that lakes that are normally ice-covered in winter are melting earlier in the spring, exposing the lake to warmer air temperatures for a longer period of time. Another, ironically, is that decreased pollution in North America is leading to less smog and cloud cover.” As a result of the latter, the lakes are exposed to more solar radiation and warming faster.
The study provided some major points of concern for the lake warming (as reported by CBC):
- Algal blooms that suck the oxygen out of the lake water, choking out other organisms, are expected to increase 20 per cent over the next century.
- Algal blooms that are toxic to fish and humans are expected to increase by five per cent over the next century.
- An increase in emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane is expected to increase four per cent over the next decade.
- Increased evaporation will cause a drop in lake water levels.
Invasive species are another threat. Lead author Sapna Sharma, an assistant professor at York University, told the Toronto Star that if the lakes warm too fast it may be tough for native wildlife species to adapt and survive. This leaves an opportunistic gap for invasive species to make themselves at home. Sharma warns that this alarming development is “especially true of Canadian lakes.”