Climate Change Happens Fast In Lake Superior, Causing Fish Population To Explode

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Global warming is felt around the world, with average temperatures rising 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since the year 1880. But nowhere is getting warmer faster than North America’s own Lake Superior.

The largest lake in North America and, by surface area, the world has heated up by six degrees Fahrenheit in the last 30 years alone.

It’s not all bad news, though. In this case, the short term effects of the sudden hike in water temperature could be a bonanza for the economy around the lake (seen from space in the accompanying photo). Why? Because as lake, which is the coldest of the Great Lakes, gets warmer to becomes more hospitable to new breeds of fish. Specifically, the walleye fish, until recently absent from Lake Superior.

But walleye experienced a population explosion in the lake as its water became warmer. And that means — great fishing!

"There are going to be more people fishing for walleye that are going to spend money buying bait, buying food, staying in hotels, having a beer with the boys after dinner, those kinds of things," said University of Wisconsin Emeritus Professor James Kitchell. "The economic boost of recreational fishery in the Great Lakes has been phenomenal."

The south shores of Lake Superior lap up in Wisconsin and Michigan. Minnesota and Ontario lie on the northern shores.

The reason that lake is getting hotter faster than anywhere else has to do with the decline in the amount of ice on the lake over the past three decades, Kitchell explained to Public Radio International.

"When there’s ice on the lakes, a lot of that solar energy is reflected back into the atmosphere, but in the most recent three decades, the duration of ice on the lake has reduced by as much as 50 percent or more," the scientist said. "The result is that more solar radiation enters and stays in the water column, and the lake warms more quickly."

The bad news about the lake heating up is that more fish in the water means less food to go around. Scientists are already seeing the fish population starting to die out.

SOURCES: Public Radio International, National Geographic, Wikipedia