Great Lakes Shrinking?

As drought grips much of the nation, the mighty Great Lakes are shrinking, the New York Times reports today, expanding upon an AP story published August 3 that also said Lake Superior is getting warmer.

By Felicity Barringer, New York Times
(Aug 14, 2007) – Water levels in the three upper Great Lakes are wavering far below normal, and experts expect Lake Superior, the northernmost lake, to reach a record low in the next two months, according to data from the international bodies that monitor the Great Lakes, the world’s largest freshwater reservoir.


By John Flesher, Associated Press
MARQUETTE, Mich. (Aug 3, 2007) – Deep enough to hold the combined water in all the other Great Lakes and with a surface area as large as South Carolina, Lake Superior’s size has lent it an aura of invulnerability. But the mighty Superior is losing water and getting warmer, worrying those who live near its shores, scientists and companies that rely on the lake for business.

A quick search finds that the AP’s story had legs as far away as the Times of India.

Keith Schneider, my colleague and a NY Times contributor, also made note of this diminishing Great Lake back in June in his blog, Mode Shift.

So as we look at the world’s water woes — poring over satellite photographs of the Aral Sea’s demise and clinging to hope there’s a freshwater lake hidden below Dafur that’s large enough to sate thirsts for war — we might take a look around us here in the U.S. and attune ourselve the more subtle emerging examples and consequences of climate’s impact on freshwater.

Schneider writes: “The upper Midwest is one of three regions in the United States that is feeling the burn from global climate change. The other two are the Deep South and the Southwest, particularly around the Colorado Plateau. The Upper Midwest has the water. We have more clean fresh water than any place on earth. The two other regions have all the people. The Deep South and the Southwest are growing faster than almost any other region of the nation. Now answer this one. Do the states of the Great Lakes, which are growing more slowly and gradually shedding electoral college votes and House members, also begin to lose the capacity to safeguard their water supply?”

Steve Curwood, producer and host of NPR’s Living on Earth, visited a year or so ago and implored citizens of the upper Great Lakes region to gird for a future of global water envy. He said he had an epiphany while making the final approach over Lake Michigan to the airport here in Traverse City: The world will beat a path to your shores. Are you ready?

Indeed, are we ready?

For a barometer of the political future of water, at least in the Midwest, keep an eye on the U.S. Drought Monitor and watch as dust-covered faces turn attention toward the Great Lakes. And see if the politicians can keep cool heads as fiery words of desire are bound to emerge from parched lips.

U.S. Drought Monitor

Current Great Lakes water levels

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