Global Warming at Home
With the first real snow of the season hitting Western New York, it may seem ironic to discuss global warming, but itâ€™s a real phenomenon. Global warming wonâ€™t stop snow from falling in Buffalo, but it is, and will continue, to change the climate and Lake to which we are accustomed.
Often when you hear about impacts of global warming, the focus lies on the oceansâ€™ coast and areas predicted to disappear below sea level as polar ice caps melt and the oceans warm. Weâ€™ve already witnessed the massive losses in a city like New Orleans when water levels rise temporarily, and so such predictions can really stick in your mind. And weâ€™ve heard speculation about what could happen to countries that lies entirely below the sea level like the Netherlands or Bangladesh. But what you donâ€™t hear about as often is what will happen to the giant body of water here in Western New York. In what ways could global warming really affect Lake Erie?
According to meteorologists and scientists, Lake Erie could look very different in the next one hundred years:
- water levels could drop as much as 3-6 feet due to increased evaporation from higher temperatures in the summer and less ice cover to stop evaporation in the winter
- more heavy rain events and less heavy snow events are likely
- water quality could decline because of increased runoff during the increased frequency of heavy rains
- a decline in cold water fish because of an increase in water temperature
- increased release of contamination in sediments due to increased solubility in warmer water
- a decrease in surface area of 15%, which could lead to a 25% decrease in hydroelectric power production from the New York State Power Authority
- with water levels decreasing, an increase in exposed lands that were formerly submerged under Lake Erieâ€™s waters
- Increased expenses to maintain or move ports, harbors and water intake pipes.
While these are all possible consequences of the changes in the earthâ€™s global climate patterns, they raise very interesting questions that our region has not had to deal with before. How will we be able to deal with more frequent heavy rain storms with our current outdated and inadequate sewer system? Who will own submerged land that is exposed if water levels drop? How can we change our energy production and use to stop climate change from getting worse? How will we adapt to the changes that are happening?
This post is not intended to focus on the doom and gloom of global but to continue a conversation that has already begun across the globe and here in our city. In the following months, Great Lakes United will explore issues of global warming and what can be done by our city and ourselves to address this reality.
Photo caption: â€śLow water levels which have been sporadically seen at public boat ramps in Lake Michigan and Lake Erie due to events like an extremely dry summer or a seiche, are predicted to become commonplace in the Great Lakes due to widespread global warming.â€ť