Does Climate Change Mean Less Ice on Lake Superior?

Posted at: 11/16/2013 4:37 PM
Updated at: 11/16/2013 10:51 PM
By: Travis Dill

Representative Rick Nolan and nearly 100 residents filled a UMD lecture hall for a climate change forum on Saturday.

Lake Superior hasn't seen significant ice yet this year, and local scientists said it will see less ice in the future.

“We have our cold winters. We have our warm winters, but progressively, steadily we're going to see more of the warm and less of the cold. We're going to see overall a decrease in the ice cover on Lake Superior,” Professor Tom Johnson said.

Johnson is a regent professor at UMD and works in the Large Lakes Observatory. He said the average temperature of our big lake has warmed by 2 degrees Celsius over the last few decades.

“That surprised us when we found that out because the lake is actually warming at twice the rate that the air is warming,” Johnson said.

But Geological Sciences Professor Christina Gallup said scientists are also seeing average air temperatures warm up too. She said that effects cooler climates like the Northland to a greater degree.

“Here in Minnesota, in the last century, we've already had over 4 degrees Fahrenheit warming,” Gallup said.

She said data ties the warming to human fossil fuel use, but not everyone is convinced. Gallup said public support for climate change is as low as 50 percent according to some studies.

However, Gallup said scientists agree on the warming trend.

“The scientific community, it's 98, 99 percent yeah. Pretty much all of them,” Gallup said.

She said the warming oceans will lead to more strong storms like the typhoon that recently hit the Philippines.

“Not to say they can't happen without global warming, but they will happen more often and be more severe with global warming,” Gallup said.

U.S. Congressman Rick Nolan said sending aid to disaster areas at home and abroad can be expensive for taxpayers.

“I mean $136 billion in one year, and that doesn't take in the private damages that were done to families and lives that are lost,” Nolan said.

He hopes to fight climate change by reducing our carbon output. He said tax changes could help reduce our reliance on fuels that produce carbon dioxide.

“Of course tax policies have been much more favorable to the fossil fuel industry than the renewable energy industry,” Nolan said.

Nolan said climate change will play a role in trade agreements too. He wants to make sure the United States is not the only country held to strict environmental standards.