Spread the love

Lowest ice cover in 50 years on the Great Lakes

Lack of ice on the Great Lakes worries scientists .

  • Théodore Doucet (View profile)Théodore Doucet

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">The Great Lakes begin 2024 with the lowest ice cover since measurements began in 1973. The scale of the phenomenon is such that specialists say they were caught off guard and are sounding the alarm about its possible environmental consequences.

Only 1.17% of the surface area of ​​all five lakes is covered, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) January 9 survey, compared to about 15% on average at that time. time of year.

The heat stored last summer and the current softness, influenced by the El Niño phenomenon, prevent water from freezing, according to David Phillips, senior climatologist at Environment and Climate Change Canada.

We experienced the hottest May to September on record, with lots of residual heat in lakes, rivers and land, says -he. The water temperature is between 4 and 6°C, when it should be around 0°C [at the start of a normal winter]. We need to get rid of all this heat before the ice can form.

Open in full screen mode

A thin layer of ice on Lake Superior. (Archive photo)

In addition to the risks posed by insufficiently solid ice for certain winter recreation activities on smaller bodies of water, the anomaly on the Great Lakes may have environmental consequences.

Ice is a part of life on the Great Lakes. We need ice periods for many functions, notes Jérôme Marty, general director of the International Association for Research on the Great Lakes (AIRGL).

Among the roles of ice is the fight against erosion. Without a frozen layer, certain coastal areas are exposed to waves brought in in particular by the nordet, this powerful winter wind which blows from the northeast.

Climate: the banks of Lake Erie risk erosion. SHOW HERE FIRST. Mornings without borders.

Climate: Lake Erie shores at risk of erosion

BROADCAST HERE PREMIEREMatins sans frontières

Listen to the audio (Climate: Lake Erie shores risk erosion. 9 minutes 27 seconds)

The western part of Lake Erie is one of the vulnerable areas, explains Tim Byrne, executive director of the Essex Region Conservation Authority. The ice acts as a barrier and significantly shelters our coasts from winter winds, which can be among the most devastating.

LoadingDemand for electric vehicles exceeds Hydro-Québec forecasts

ELSE ON INFO: Demand for electric vehicles exceeds Hydro-Québec forecasts

However, many escarpments exist in the region, in the town of Kingsville and Essex, and significant portions of exposed – and inhabited – cliffs regularly collapse into Lake Erie during storms, he explains.

Mr. Byrne adds that the current lack of ice portends difficulties to come.

We have over 140 km of shoreline in the Essex area. Each of these kilometers is threatened. This will be a challenge that we will have to face, with a changing climate pattern over time. Many of these areas may soon no longer be suitable for human occupancy.

A quote from Tim Byrne, executive director of the Western Region Conservation Authority. Essex

Open in full screen mode

During the winter of 2022, photographer David Piano witnessed erosion advance “by 6 to 10 meters” in three months on the north shore of Lake Erie, putting several properties at risk. (Archive photo)

The balance of the local ecosystem is also at stake, because the ice and cold water serve as sanctuaries for the spawning of certain species of fish, continues Jérôme Marty.

Conversely, biological activity is higher if the waters are warmer. We have algae problems in many of the Great Lakes and without the overwintering period, in the spring, we will probably have even more algae and even more associated problems.

The scientist is particularly monitoring blue-green algae, capable of proliferating very quickly and which becomes toxic under certain conditions. This can produce extreme cases, while the water of the Great Lakes serves as drinking water for millions of people, he continues.

In the summer of 2014, residents of Pelee Island in southwestern Ontario and those in the city of Toledo, Ohio, were deprived of water drinking water for several days due to the concentration of blue-green algae in Lake Erie.

Open in full screen mode

This water sample from Lake Erie sampled in 2017 had a significant amount of blue-green algae. (Archive photo)

Subscribe to the ICI Ontario newsletter.

Form to subscribe to the Ontario newsletter.Subscribe

For the moment, the extent of the phenomenon of insufficient ice took the scientists by surprise.

We are the snowiest country in the world, the second in terms of cold, and winter is challenging us this year, underlines David Phillips. What we're seeing could very well be a glimpse of what normal will be like in 2050.

Take the Rideau Canal in Ottawa which was not open to skaters last winter and whose season is about to end x27;be compromised this year too. This was something that was planned for 2050, not 2022 or 2023.

A quote from David Phillips, Senior Climatologist at Environment and Climate Change Canada

The loss of ice on the Great Lakes is a new stress that we had not taken into account, perhaps even there is 10 or 20 years ago, in the way science was being done, Mr. Marty continues. It's something that's really emerging.

  • Théodore Doucet (View profile)Théodore DoucetFollow
Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116