, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 107-133

Climatic change and great lakes levels the impact on shipping

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Abstract

This paper represents an attempt to combine the output of several models that deal with future climatic, hydrologic and economic conditions in the Great Lakes and makes some predictions about the possible impact of one scenario of 2 × CO2 climate on Great Lakes shipping. It is realized that there is a great deal of uncertainty in all the models and that improvements are continually being made. Data from a General Circulation Model of future temperature and precipitation in the Great Lakes basin, a Great Lakes levels and flows model from the Canada Centre for Inland Waters and an International Joint Commision's Great Lakes economic model modified by the University of Wisconsin were used. The 1900–1976 period of lake levels and flows was used. The hydrologic model indicated that future mean lake levels may be reduced by one-half meter, and that the extreme low levels of the mid 1960's could occur 77% of the time in the future. No ice cover is predicted for any lake except Erie, permitting an eleven month shipping season. Five scenarios of future impact on shipping were evaluated. It was found that mean annual shipping costs may increase by 30% and the frequency of years when costs exceed those of the period of low lake levels (1963–65) could rise to 97%. Possible policy options in a future with climatically induced lower lake levels could include regulation to keep levels artificially high by diversions into the system, or increased dredging of the connecting channels.