Topic Climate

Climate Change in Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay: Integrated Assessment

Great Lakes coastal communities are already experiencing the effects of climate change and climate variability. And, in places like Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay, land use, an influx of population and increased development have also impacted the coastal waters and the watershed.

Together, climate and land use changes have altered the amount of water, sediment, nutrients, toxins and pathogens entering streams and coastal waters. Forecasts predict that changes in temperature and precipitation patterns are likely to intensify. These anticipated changes have the potential to threaten the ecology and economy of the Grand Traverse Bay region.

David Hyndman, Ph.D, Michigan State University – Department of Geological Sciences
Project Overview | Project Summary (PDF) | Final Report (PDF)

Helping Coastal Communities Evaluate Wind Energy Options

Michigan is recognized as a state with strong wind energy development potential. As a result, coastal communities are likely to face pressure to develop wind farms. Currently, there is limited information about how coastal wind turbines might impact communities, businesses and the environment. This project aims to help communities understand the potential impacts of wind development.

R/CCD-10, dates: 2009-2012
Soji Adelaja, Michigan State University – Land Policy Institute
Project Summary (PDF)

West Michigan Wind Assessment

Wind power has the potential to reduce Michigan’s reliance on fossil fuels and help meet state-mandated renewable energy targets. However, all forms of electricity generation have some impact. The intent of this project is to comprehensively analyze the benefits and challenges of wind energy development in one particular region of coastal West Michigan, including Oceana, Muskegon, Ottawa and Allegan counties.

R/CCD-11, dates: 2009-2012
Erik Nordman, Grand Valley State University
Project Briefs | Project Overview | Final Report

Ecosystem Mosaics and the Lake Michigan Doughnut: Modeling Pattern and Process Using Remotely Sensed Imagery

Researchers have been studying microscopic algae, or plankton, in Lake Michigan using sampling cruises and images from satellites. During late winter, they have been observing high levels of plankton in a circular, doughnut-like pattern in the deep waters of Lake Michigan. The research may help explain how certain zooplankton species characteristic of the Great Lakes are able to over-winter through what was previously perceived to be a very unproductive and resource-stressed period. However, increased productivity, greater abundance of large diatoms and increased larger zooplankton (which are all characteristic of the “doughnut”) have been predicted as key indicators of global change for the Great Lakes. If the doughnut phenomenon is a consequence of climate change, then it could indicate that later season storms will be pulling nutrients and sediment that previously fueled the near-shore spring bloom into a late winter, mid-lake bloom for which native species are not adapted. However, invasive species such as quagga mussels seem to be particularly well suited to take advantage of this phenomenon.

Project: Ecosystem Mosaics and the Lake Michigan “Doughnut”: Modeling Pattern and Process Using Remotely Sensed Imagery
R/ER-19, dates: 2005-2008
W. Charles Kerfoot, Michigan Technological University

Ecosystem Mosaics: Modeling Pattern and Process Using Remotely Sensed Imagery

This project used satellite imagery to develop monthly maps showing chlorophyll, sediments, and lake surface temperatures of Lake Superior. Researchers used these maps to describe the warming and cooling cycles of the lake and to identify unusual water movement patterns. For example, they found that a warm current of water originates at the mouth of the Ontonagon River and moves in a northeasterly direction, creating an eddy off the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. This plume of water has more sediment and chlorophyll than the surrounding water, influencing the food web and potentially attracting fish. This study has produced a detailed understanding of Lake Superior’s annual cycles, allowing scientists to detect potential future changes that might result from climate or land use changes.

R/ER-18, dates: 2001-2006
Judith Wells Budd, Michigan Technological University
W. Charles Kerfoot, Michigan Technological University

The Relationship Between Great Lakes Water Levels, Wave Energies and Shoreline Damage

Storm damage along Great Lakes coastlines is a serious concern during periods of rising and high lake levels as seen in the early 1970s and mid-1980s. Researchers explored the link between periods of high water in the Great Lakes and coastal storm damage. Building on earlier work, researchers assembled and analyzed data on climate, water and wave conditions, drawing upon an additional decade of data collected from the National Data Buoy Center wave measurement program. Researchers also investigated the significance of a shift in wave pattern on the impact of large harbor structures in Lake Michigan. Evaluation of water level and wave set-up at two sites has shown a significant correlation to erosion events. The results of this study have enhanced understanding of how lake levels and waves combine to impact our coastlines, providing management tools for coastal resource policy. Results have been incorporated into the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Lake Michigan Potential Damages Study and used by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Shorelands Management Division to help manage coastal resources.

R/T-38, dates: 1999-2002
Guy Meadows, University of Michigan