Great Lakes water levels could rise an average of 7.5 to 17 inches over the next few decades, study finds

“We were able to develop a coupled modeling system that not only considered the interactions between the lakes, atmosphere, and surrounding land, but also presented a more realistic and accurate representation of Great Lakes hydrodynamic processes in climate modelling.” , Xue said. “This is a necessary step to ultimately improve long-term lake level projections.”

Great Lakes residents are already struggling with erosion and flooding — common effects of high water levels — especially after record high water levels in 2019 and 2020. And even though water levels n are no longer reaching record levels, erosion and flooding remain huge problems.

“Climate change in Great Lakes water levels is a prospect we take seriously, said Jeff Johnson, public information officer at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. , in an email. “This is one of the reasons to work toward a carbon neutral Michigan by 2050 through the MI Healthy Climate Plan…I am confident that we will be proactive and responsive to challenges if these projected high water levels occur. realize.”

Johnston also referenced steps taken by EGLE to expedite applications for shoreline protection permits in 2020 when landowners were struggling with flooding.

And even before that, around the lakes, cities like Duluth were struggling with the combination of extreme weather and high water levels.

“The storms that caused massive infrastructure damage in Duluth in 2017-18 were not, by historical standards, particularly huge storms; what made them so damaging was that they happened when the lake level was high,” said Jay Austin, a professor at the University of Minnesota at Duluth. “We can expect to see more of this kind of infrastructure impact in the future.”

Austin’s work also examines the impact of climate change on the Great Lakes, although his research focuses on ice and water temperature.

When it comes to the heavy impacts of climate change, modeling can give people a chance to prepare.

“We can’t experiment to see how the lake is going to react to higher air temperatures or lower or higher precipitation or anything like that,” Austin said. “We don’t have that kind of control over nature. And so what we can do is take predictions of how the climate will change over time and then use models like Dr. Xue did and say here’s what the lake levels are going to do.

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