Record-low Great Lakes ice coverage: U-M experts can discuss
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed on Friday that Great Lakes ice coverage reached a record low for this time of year. University of Michigan experts are available to discuss this topic.
Richard Rood is a professor of climate and space sciences and engineering at the College of Engineering and professor at the School of Environment and Sustainability. He is an expert on U.S. weather modeling and can discuss the connection between weather, climate and society. He is also a co-principal investigator at the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments, a federally funded partnership between U-M and Michigan State University.
“The most robust signal of climate change in the Great Lakes region is warming,” he said. “That warming is greatest in the winter, and during warm weather patterns it is far more likely to be above freezing than in the past.
“We see signals of a shift from snow to rain. We see winter snow storms, which can have record snow amounts, followed by rain and melting. The message? There is definitive warming. There is an accumulation of heat and its effects throughout the basin. Declining lake ice is part of this coherent story of accumulation of heat.”
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Ayumi Fujisaki-Manome is an assistant research scientist at the U-M-based Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research, a collaboration with NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. Her areas of expertise include sea/lake ice and lake-effect snow, polar physical oceanography and numerical geophysical modeling.
“There are a few physical implications from less ice cover on the lakes. Less ice cover means more open water, which is a perfect set up for lake-effect snow,” she said. “Also, ice cover protects the shoreline of lakes. Without it, high waves can scour the coastline and cause flooding. In addition, there are implications for winter recreation. For example, ice fishing can be less safe as the ice gets less stable.”
David Cannon is a postdoctoral research fellow at the U-M-based Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research. He is a hydrodynamic lake modeler and is currently investigating historic changes in ice cover and thermal structure in the Great Lakes.
“In the Great Lakes, historical observations of ice cover show decreasing trends in both annual ice cover duration—i.e., the total number of days with surface ice—and ice cover maxima, the maximum annual ice cover,” Cannon said. “In fact, ice-cover maxima have decreased by nearly 10% per decade in some lakes over the last 40 years.These warming trends are paired with increasing ice cover variability, which makes forecast modeling more difficult.”