Climatic Change

, Volume 120, Issue 4, pp 697–711 | Cite as

Coasts, water levels, and climate change: A Great Lakes perspective

  • Andrew D. GronewoldEmail author
  • Vincent Fortin
  • Brent Lofgren
  • Anne Clites
  • Craig A. Stow
  • Frank Quinn


The North American Laurentian Great Lakes hold nearly 20 % of the earth’s unfrozen fresh surface water and have a length of coastline, and a coastal population, comparable to frequently-studied marine coasts. The surface water elevations of the Great Lakes, in particular, are an ideal metric for understanding impacts of climate change on large hydrologic systems, and for assessing adaption measures for absorbing those impacts. In light of the importance of the Great Lakes to the North American and global economies, the Great Lakes and the surrounding region also serve as an important benchmark for hydroclimate research, and offer an example of successful adaptive management under changing climate conditions. Here, we communicate some of the important lessons to be learned from the Great Lakes by examining how the coastline, water level, and water budget dynamics of the Great Lakes relate to other large coastal systems, along with implications for water resource management strategies and climate scenario-derived projections of future conditions. This improved understanding fills a critical gap in freshwater and marine global coastal research.


Water Level Great Lake Surface Energy Budget Great Lake Basin Great Lake Water 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This paper is GLERL contribution number 1635. The authors thank Erika Washburn and Bryan Comer, as well as two anonymous reviewers who, along with the handling editor, provided helpful comments which improved the clarity of the paper. Funding for this research was provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) and the International Upper Great Lakes Study (IUGLS). We also thank Cathy Darnell for providing graphics and editorial support.


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Copyright information

© U.S. Government 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew D. Gronewold
    • 1
    Email author
  • Vincent Fortin
    • 2
  • Brent Lofgren
    • 1
  • Anne Clites
    • 1
  • Craig A. Stow
    • 1
  • Frank Quinn
    • 1
  1. 1.NOAA, Great Lakes Environmental Research LaboratoryAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Environmental Numerical Weather Prediction Research Section, Meteorological Research DivisionEnvironment CanadaDorvalCanada

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