Climate and Weather

Understanding climate and weather in the Great Lakes region is important because we use that information to guide many significant personal and societal decisions. For example, we decide:

  • When to schedule outdoor events such as weddings and family reunions.
  • Which crops to plant and when.
  • How to design or improve stormwater systems.
  • How much money a city should budget for snow removal.

The Changing Great Lakes

Despite short-term fluctuations in climate, scientists predict that the regional climate of the Great Lakes basin will be warmer with increased precipitation and less ice cover by the end of this century. For example, some projections include:

  • Air temperatures in the Great Lakes region are projected to increase up to 11o C in the summer and .5 to 9.1o C in the winter.
  • Summer precipitation is estimated to increase by 15-25% across much of the region.
  • Annual ice cover is projected to decrease on all lakes.
  • Climate-change-induced extreme events (e.g., more frequent and intense storms) may cause additional impacts to Great Lakes ecological and socio-economic systems.


Climate and Water Quality Project

The Great Lakes are a vital freshwater resource with chronic water quality problems, including harmful algal blooms. Extreme weather events are expected to affect the region’s ecosystem, with impacts on recreational fishing, swimming and drinking water supplies. Despite mounting evidence of the severity of these issues, knowledge is limited about how more frequent and severe storms, invasive mussels (zebra and quagga), land use and other factors interact as coupled systems.

This project, supported by NSF, includes 16 co-investigators, students and others, including scientists from NOAA-GLERL, UM School of Natural Resources, CILER and other participating organizations. Michigan Sea Grant is leading the outreach and education component in collaboration with the UM College of Engineering.

See: Climate Impacts on Great Lakes Water Quality

Climate Change Implications for Lake Whitefish

Currently, the Great Lakes lake whitefish fishery is the most economically valuable commercial fishery in the upper Great Lakes. But this fishery could face new “rules of the game” from climate change. One Michigan State University student, with support from Michigan Sea Grant, is developed a decision-support tool to help ensure that the fish, the fishery and the livelihoods dependent upon them remain sustainable in the face of climate change.

See: Whitefish and Climate Change Website

Climate Changes on the Grand Traverse Bay Region

A research team recently examined the potential risks that climate variability and change could bring to the Grand Traverse area. The project involved interactive workshops and technical assessments conducted by an interdisciplinary team from Michigan State University.

See: Research Project

Dangerous Currents and Climate

Michigan Sea Grant outreach specialists are distilling research conducted by Michigan Technological University (MTU), the National Weather Service (NWS) and Michigan State University (MSU). MTU scientists led efforts to collect data about specific Lake Michigan shoreline areas and found rip channels that are persistent from year to year, in the same locations. Sea Grant is working with the Department of Natural Resources to apply research data to improve the Beach Policy for Michigan and produce outreach messages for targeted audiences.

See: Dangerous Currents Project

storm over lake

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