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Report: Global Warming a ‘Great Danger’ to the Great Lakes

November 28, 2007

St. Paul, MN – A new study finds global warming presents a "great danger" to Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes. Gary Botzek with the Minnesota Conservation Federation says rising temperatures will reduce the lakes' levels and have a significant environmental impact. And, he says, everyone has a stake.

"In Minnesota, whether we hunt or fish or bird-watch or just ice skate, we as outdoors people have seen the impact of our milder winters on our habitat and our animal migration, especially bird migration."

The National Wildlife Federation study calls on the eight states and two Canadian provinces that border the Great Lakes to sign a compact to address global warming and resist efforts to divert water to other regions. Minnesota and Illinois have approved the compact.

Botzek says the impact of warming temperatures is being felt already.

"As we know, Lake Superior and the Great Lakes did not freeze up entirely last winter, for the first time. This is causing extra erosion on the shoreline as well as allowing some of the invasive species coming in through the Great Lakes to survive. It's just like the moose, which are under attack because of warmer conditions on the land."

The report says warming temperatures may result in less snowfall as well as boosting evaporation rates. That reduces the water levels of lakes and streams and the groundwater that feeds them. The study notes that water levels on the lakes, especially Superior, Michigan and Huron, have been declining for a decade. Not everyone agrees global warming is responsible for reduced water levels, however. Some scientists cite short-term weather conditions and historic patterns as causes.

The NWF report is available online, at www.nwf.org.

Jim Wishner/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - MN