Implications of CO2 global warming on great lakes ice cover
- Cite this article as:
- Assel, R.A. Climatic Change (1991) 18: 377. doi:10.1007/BF00142968
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Statistical ice cover models were used to project daily mean basin ice cover and annual ice cover duration for Lakes Superior and Erie. Models were applied to a 1951–80 base period and to three 30-year steady double carbon dioxide (2 × CO2) scenarios produced by the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), the Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS), and the Oregon State University (OSU) general circulation models. Ice cover estimates were made for the West, Central, and East Basins of Lake Erie and for the West, East, and Whitefish Bay Basins of Lake Superior. Average ice cover duration for the 1951– 80 base period ranged from 13 to 16 weeks for individual lake basins. Reductions in average ice cover duration under the three 2 × CO2 scenarios for individual lake basins ranged from 5 to 12 weeks for the OSU scenario, 8 to 13 weeks for the GISS scenario, and 11 to 13 weeks for GFDL scenario. Winters without ice formation become common for Lake Superior under the GFDL scenario and under all three 2 × CO2 scenarios for the Central and East Basins of Lake Erie. During an average 2 × CO2 winter, ice cover would be limited to the shallow areas of Lakes Erie and Superior. Because of uncertainties in the ice cover models, the results given here represent only a first approximation and are likely to represent an upper limit of the extent and duration of ice cover under the climate change projected by the three 2 × CO2scenarios. Notwithstanding these limitations, ice cover projected by the 2 × CO2 scenarios provides a preliminary assessment of the potential sensitivity of the Great Lakes ice cover to global warming. Potential environmental and socioeconomic impacts of a 2 × CO2 warming include year-round navigation, change in abundance of some fish species in the Great Lakes, discontinuation or reduction of winter recreational activities, and an increase in winter lake evaporation.