Climate change to profoundly alter Great Lakes region, report says


Intense rainstorms, floods and heat waves will become more common in the Great Lakes region due to climate change in the coming decades, and ice-cover declines will lengthen the commercial navigation season on the lakes, according to a new summary report released Tuesday.

In the next few decades, longer growing seasons and rising carbon dioxide levels will increase some crop yields in the region, but those benefits will be progressively offset by extreme weather events, according to the report.

The report, prepared by the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center, comes at the start of a three-day climate-adaptation conference at U-M. GLISA is a federally funded collaboration between U-M and Michigan State University.

GLISA’s 13-page “synthesis report” summarizes the key Great Lakes-region impacts of climate change detailed in the latest U.S. National Climate Assessment, which was released last month by the federal government. The 840-page national assessment is widely regarded as the most comprehensive evaluation of current and future impacts of climate change on the United States.

“Climate impacts how we live, work and play. The mission of GLISA is to provide people in the Great Lakes region with useful and useable information on how our climate is changing and what that means for our way of life,” said Elizabeth Gibbons, GLISA program manager.

“Our hope is that this report will demonstrate that there is an urgent need for all of us to begin building resilience into our communities, natural systems and water management planning practices. The impacts of climate change are already being felt and will only increase in the years and decades to come.”

GLISA is one of the sponsors of the three-day “Adaptation in the Great Lakes Region” conference at U-M. The meeting — which is free and open to the public Tuesday but is for registered conference participants afterward — will examine the process behind the National Climate Assessment, the expected impacts of climate change on the region, as well as the climate-adaptation efforts that will be needed to address those changes.

The GLISA summary report, “Synthesis of the Third National Climate Assessment for the Great Lakes Region,” states:

 • Increased heat wave intensity and frequency, increased humidity, degraded air quality and changes in mosquito- and tick-borne disease patterns in the region will increase public health risks.

• Extreme rainfall events and flooding have increased in the region during the last century and are expected to continue. Those trends could lead to increased erosion, declining water quality and negative impacts on transportation, agriculture, human health and infrastructure.

• Climate change will exacerbate a range of risks to the Great Lakes, including changes in the range and distribution of certain fish species, increased invasive species, more frequent harmful algae blooms and declining beach health.

• The composition of forests in the Great Lakes region is changing as the climate warms. Many tree species are shifting northward, with more southerly varieties replacing them.

The GLISA summary report is largely a synthesis of information contained in the Midwest and Northeast chapters of the latest National Climate Assessment. Don Scavia, director of the Graham Sustainability Institute, was a lead convening author of the Midwest chapter.

Professor Dan Brown of the School of Natural Resources and Environment was a lead convening author of the NCA chapter on changes in land use and land cover. Professor Rosina Bierbaum of SNRE and the School of Public Health was a lead convening author of the chapter on climate change adaptation. Missy Stults, a doctoral student at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, was a contributing author on the adaptation chapter.

In addition, Bierbaum and Associate Professor Marie O’Neill of the School of Public Health served on the 60-person advisory committee that oversaw development of the report, which was the work of more than 250 scientists, engineers, government officials and other experts.



  1. cathy wisiens
    on June 25, 2014 at 9:07 am

    Global Warming Lies was created because when you do an internet search on global warming 99% of what you find is how the Earth is doomed and we are all going to drown from global warming. This isn’t the case, in fact most climatologists will tell you differently. The attempts of environmentalists to bolster the myth of human-induced global warming is downright immoral.
    The United Nations left out two statements that were supposed to be in the final draft of a paper on Global Warming.

    1) “None of the studies cited has shown clear evidence that we can attribute the observed climate changes to increases in greenhouse gases.”
    2) “No study to date has positively attributed all or part of the climate change to man–made causes”

    • Larry Junck
      on June 29, 2014 at 3:23 pm

      This comment betrays lack of knowledge about the scientific evidence for human-caused climate change and perhaps even about the scientific process.

      Loads of studies add up to overwhelming evidence that climate change is happening, that greenhouse gases are the primary driver, and that humans are the source of increasing greenhouse gases.

  2. Brian Smola
    on June 25, 2014 at 9:13 am

    Here we go again with the doom and gloom….They cant predict the weather accurately for next Saturday, yet somehow they have it pegged for 10-30 years from now. All the Southern states are thriving and they have been warm for hundreds of years; surprisingly, the people who live down there are lucky to be alive I guess. Yet another natural occurance which doesnt worry me in the least.

  3. Elmer Beere Jr
    on June 25, 2014 at 9:30 am

    Mans hubris strikes again. Can we have some perspective? We just came out of the Little Ice Age 1300-1900 AD. Thank God we exist between major ice ages! Too much politics and not enough science.

  4. Naomi DePlume
    on June 25, 2014 at 10:03 am

    [yawn] News flash: the climate has been changing since the dawn of time. Why do we act like change is unprecedented? “Things forever and relentlessly change.” We adapt. Next!

  5. Kevin Atkins
    on June 25, 2014 at 11:10 am


    Does anyone remember phlogiston? It was the ‘consensus’ until it wasn’t. Does the climate change? Of course, no disagreement. But whether it is changing because we have been sinful is another story. I can promise you that in a couple hundred years those living then will look back upon us and our, what to them will be, quaint and superstitious ideas and wonder at what we could have been thinking. Notice too how in the past the folks at the bottom of the scale were rushed to the top of the pyramid to have their hearts removed to propitiate the gods. Now our president tells the poor, whether in Africa or here in the US (will they be able to afford increased heating costs), that they must sacrifice because the folks in Hyde Park having lived well have made Gaia unhappy.

    • J Fern
      on June 25, 2014 at 2:38 pm

      I do not understand how scientific experimental evidence that matches theoretical models of climate change (within well-defined error bars) can be considered quaint and superstitious? Do you also promise that in a couple hundred years people will look back upon the science of solid state physics–a science which uses the same analytical and observational methods that climate scientists use to make scientific claims–and wonder how we could have been thinking such quaint and superstitious ideas? Yet the computer you type on exists? Admittedly, climate science has not reached the same level of maturity as solid state physics. But a global climate system is much more complex than a simple transistor. Climate models consistently show that the current average levels of warming just do not occur without the presence of anthropogenic gases. All of the physics included in the model is based on experimental evidence. Sound superstitious?

      • Brian Smola
        on June 26, 2014 at 12:23 pm

        The problem is that when those scientific theories were defined, politcs were separated from science. Unfortunately today, scientists, doctors, lawyers, radio hosts, you name it, get to inject their political views into the discussion and since the media has also become political, no one questions anything.
        Trust me…If you dont think there is also a team of “scientists” out there who also think climate change is non-anthropogenic (scientists love to throw that term around to sound important, so I will as well), then your not looking. Why do those “scientists” not matter but the ones that support the view do matter? I only go by scientific fact/theory and I simply have not been presented any reliable evidence to believe its anthropogenic, so until that time, I am not buying it. Just because someone says something over and over again doesnt make it so. Al Gore can say anything, that doesnt make it true.

        • Larry junck
          on June 29, 2014 at 3:42 pm

          This discussion thread is all about science, not about politics.

          The reason that scientists who argue that climate change is not anthropogenic get trumped is are that they are very few in number, many of them have conflicts of interest (e.g. funding by carbon industries), and they lack data.

          Perhaps the most cited climate skeptic is Bjorn Lomborg. The Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty ruled his book The Skeptical Environmentalist to be scientifically dishonest, but that Lomborg himself was not guilty of scientific dishonesty because he lacked expertise. In recent years, Lomborg, aware of ever-increasing evidence, no longer argues that climate change is not real or not anthropogenic, rather that we should just learn to live with it.

  6. Robert Trebor
    on June 25, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    Perhaps the University of Michigan should cut off all contacts with the Peoples’ Republic of China until it applies the same standards to its emissions as the US currently does.

  7. Bill Steffen
    on June 26, 2014 at 1:07 am

    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” – H. L. Mencken

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