UMD Professor Talks Open Winter Waters Of Lake Superior

DULUTH, Minn. – Scientists continue to study the effects of climate change on Lake Superior the big lake is still showing plenty of open water in Duluth.

While we have experienced a mild winter so far, experts say a lot can change with the temperatures, which can quickly add ice cover to Lake Superior and help scientists understand what the summer will look like for the body of water.

Jay Austin, a professor at UMD’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, said we are seeing fewer and fewer winters with lots of ice, and more and more winters with very little ice.

Austin said the lack of ice means more evaporation and warmer lake temperatures from the sun getting an early and open start on the water. This can then fuel issues like toxic algae blooms.

“Temperature does play that very, very important role of really, sort of this master control for the ecosystem, so things like nutrient uptick rates, or where good spawning grounds are, or metabolisms — all of those things are a really strong function of temperature,” Austin said.

Austin said Lake Superior has actually been responding pretty reliably to a “gentle climate change” over time.

And interesting to note, Austin said the lake can be 3 to 4 degrees warmer the following summer after an open-water winter.

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