Michigan — July 12, 2010 at 6:02 pm

Lake Superior 20°F WARMER than normal for this time of year


Here’s something that should give even the most ardent climate change denier pause: Lake Superior is currently 20°F warmer than normal for this time of year.

In the spring, the sun warms the water fairly uniformly as deep and shallow water mix. Once it reaches about 39 degrees, however, the behavior of the water changes and warmer water starts to form a layer floating on the colder water below. The process, known as lake turnover, usually happens in mid-July on Lake Superior, but this year it happened in early to mid-June instead.

UMD researcher Jay Austin said data from three buoys in the lake show that the warm-up is on par with 1998, the fastest since records began being kept in 1979.

“We would normally just be getting to turnover, to 39 degrees, about this time in July,” Austin said. “But it happened so early this year that we’re already at 59 degrees (at the western Lake Superior NOAA buoy). That’s 20 degrees warmer than we should be right now.

But the good news doesn’t stop there.

It could mean a more fertile lake with more organisms that thrive in warmer conditions. And it could cause “cascading biological effects to fish and other species that we can surmise but haven’t confirmed as yet,” said Steve Colman, co-researcher and director of the Large Lakes Observatory.

Colman and Austin released a study in 2007 showing that Lake Superior’s summer water temperature was rising twice as fast as air temperatures over the past 30 years.

According the article:

They’ve found a self-perpetuating correlation: The higher the air and water temperatures, the less ice there is. The less ice, the warmer the water gets. Then there’s less ice the next winter.

“There’s a climate momentum going on out there,” Colman said. … “The traditional thought was that there really wasn’t any carryover from one year to the next with this kind of system. But it looks like there is.”

I’ve been a bit skeptical over the years that our climate might reach some breaking point then rapidly shift (like happened in the climate/disaster movie “The Day After Tomorrow“.) Stuff like this has me rethinking this. I guess the timing on an $835,000 grant for the University of Michigan to study algal blooms and water quality in the Great Lakes is quite timely, eh?

I’m just sayin’…