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An iceless Lake Superior? Study finds lakes are warming faster than oceans


Lakes are warming faster than oceans or the atmosphere, and that could have devastating effects on the health of Minnesota's waterways.

That's the conclusion dozens of scientists have made in a new report published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, and announced Wednesday at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

Sixty scientists studied 235 lakes around the world – including Lake Superior – for at least 25 years in order to publish the first-of-its-kind study, which found lakes are warming an average of 0.61 degrees every decade. That's greater than the warming rate of oceans and the atmosphere.

And Lake Superior is one of the "more rapidly warming lakes," which could mean the difference between the lake having ice in the winter – or none at all, Jay Austin, a professor at the University of Minnesota-Duluth who co-authored the study, told the Star Tribune.

Austin, who also published a report on the temperature changes on Lake Superior in 2007, says having no ice on the lake could lead to changes that define our region, he told the Star Tribune, noting ice plays a "large cultural role" in how people perceive the lake, according to WDIO.

But the lack of ice is not the only threat that comes from the warming of lakes.

The study found it could increase toxic algae blooms and disrupt fish habitats with the growth of invasive species. It could also affect humans, who rely on lakes for drinking water, manufacturing, energy production, irrigation and crops, as well as freshwater fish for food.

Austin told the Star Tribune that "obviously, Lake Superior is going to stay cold for a very long time," but the lake, along with the others in the study, can serve as a "climate antenna" that lets scientists track climate change.

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