Menus Subscribe Search

Follow us


Climate Change Threatens Great Lakes’ Parks

• July 27, 2011 • 4:16 PM

With temperatures rising and lake levels lowering, environmentalists say there’s reason to be worried about the future of national parks.

“Climate change is a huge, transforming, all-encompassing threat to the national parks,” Stephen Saunders, founder and president of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, told our Melinda Burns last year.

Just how climate change will affect national parks around the world has been on the minds of environmentalists and park managers for some time. When their concerns reach the public — that of the threat to the country’s most iconic parks — melting glaciers at Glacier National Park, for example, or rising water levels at the Everglades are usually invoked.

But the latest in a series of reports from the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and National Resource Defense Council outlined the consequences of climate change on parks ringing the Great Lakes. (The two organizations are nonprofits focused on the environment, with the Rocky Mountain group specifically focused on reducing greenhouse gases and bracing for climate change.)

While perhaps not as engrained in the national consciousness as Yosemite or Yellowstone, the parks examined — Isle Royale National Park and the Indiana Dunes, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Pictured Rocks and Apostle Islands national lake shores — collectively attracted 4 million visitors in 2010. (In comparison, Yellowstone alone sees more than 3 million visitors each year.) These special places stand to lose what makes them such special year-round getaways for the Midwest.

Between 2070-2099, according to the report, summer in the Indiana Dunes could boast temperatures an average of 8 degrees hotter than now, or similar to what Gainesville, Fla., currently experiences. The effects of that increase extend beyond it just being hotter.

For example, there would less ice cover over the lakes in the winter. This could lead to an increase of winter waves that would erode shorelines and damage structures, even destroying the features, like the dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes, which make the park special. Warmer winters would also cut into or eliminate regional recreation favorites such as ice fishing or skiing. New plants and animals would move in, and existing ones would either move on or become extinct. With its nemesis of bitingly cold winters weakening, kudzu, a fast-growing vine known for overtaking other plant life in the American South, is expected in Indiana in less than a decade. Plants aren’t the only species affected by the shifting climate. Isle Royale has already seen a dramatic decrease in its moose and wolf populations. Charismatic animals such as lynx, martens and birds are also at risk.

Besides the effects on the wildlife, the study predicts that visitor enjoyment will drop. The parks could become too hot to visit in the summer months and the temperatures may even become dangerous to people in the form of from increasing ground-level ozone pollutants and attracting more disease-carrying insects.

And while the amount of rain falling in heavy storms is already up by a third from the past century, the report says the balance of water entry and exit from the lake could tip, with lake levels falling 10 to 16 inches.

Hot summers, melting ice and crashing waves don’t add up to much individually, but collectively, these changes are a firm warning that we could lose a natural gift often taken for granted.

Sign up for the free Miller-McCune.com e-newsletter.

“Like” Miller-McCune on Facebook.

Follow Miller-McCune on Twitter.

Add Miller-McCune.com news to your site.

Subscribe to Miller-McCune

Devon Boen
Devon Boen is an intern at Miller-McCune. She attends the University of Colorado at Boulder where she studies English and political science and writes for the CU Independent.

More From Devon Boen

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

October 20 • 4:00 AM

Coming Soon: The Anatomy of Ignorance


October 17 • 4:00 PM

What All Military Families Need to Know About High-Cost Lenders

Lessons from over a year on the beat.


October 17 • 2:00 PM

The Majority of Languages Do Not Have Gendered Pronouns

A world without “he.” Or “she.”


October 17 • 11:01 AM

How to Water a Farm in Sandy Ground

Physicists investigate how to grow food more efficiently in fine-grained soil.


October 17 • 10:00 AM

Can Science Fiction Spur Science Innovation?

Without proper funding, the answer might not even matter.


October 17 • 8:00 AM

Seattle, the Incredible Shrinking City

Seattle is leading the way in the micro-housing movement as an affordable alternative to high-cost city living.


October 17 • 6:00 AM

‘Voodoo Death’ and How the Mind Harms the Body

Can an intense belief that you’re about to die actually kill you? Researchers are learning more about “voodoo death” and how it isn’t limited to superstitious, foreign cultures.


October 17 • 4:00 AM

That Arts Degree Is Paying Off

A survey of people who have earned degrees in the arts find they are doing relatively well, although their education didn’t provide much guidance on managing a career.


October 16 • 4:00 PM

How (Some) Economists Are Like Doomsday Cult Members

Cognitive dissonance and clinging to paradigms even in the face of accumulated anomalous facts.


October 16 • 2:00 PM

The Latest—and Most Mysterious—Player in the Nasty Battle Over Net Neutrality

As the FCC considers how to regulate Internet providers, the telecom industry’s stealth campaign for hearts and minds encompasses everything from art installations to LOLcats.


October 16 • 12:00 PM

How Many Ads Is Too Many Ads?

The conundrum of online video advertising.


October 16 • 11:00 AM

Unlocking Consciousness

A study of vegetative patients closes in on the nature of consciousness.


October 16 • 10:00 AM

The False Promises of Higher Education

Danielle Henderson spent six years and $60,000 on college and beyond. The effects of that education? Not as advertised.


October 16 • 8:00 AM

Faster Justice, Closer to Home: The Power of Community Courts

Community courts across the country are fighting judicial backlog and lowering re-arrest rates.


October 16 • 6:00 AM

Killing Your Husband to Save Yourself

Without proper legal instruments, women with abusive partners are often forced to make a difficult choice: kill or be killed.


October 16 • 4:00 AM

Personality Traits Linked to Specific Diseases

New research finds neurotic people are more likely to suffer a serious health problem.


October 16 • 2:00 AM

Comparing Apples to the Big Apple: Yes, Washington, D.C., Is More Expensive Than New York City

Why shouldn’t distant locales tied to jobs in the urban core count in a housing expenditure study?


October 15 • 4:00 PM

Why Asian American Parents Are the Least Likely to Spank Their Kids

Highly educated, middle-class parents are less likely to use corporal punishment to discipline their children than less-educated, working-class, and poor parents.


October 15 • 2:00 PM

The Federal Government’s New Doctor Payments Website Is Worthy of a Recall

Charles Ornstein takes a test drive using the federal government’s new website for drug and device payments and finds it virtually unusable.


October 15 • 12:00 PM

How Cosmetic Companies Get Away With Pseudoscience

Anti-aging creams make absurd claims that they repair DNA damage or use stem-cell treatments. When cosmetics companies and dermatologists partner to maximize profits, who is responsible for protecting the consumer?


October 15 • 10:00 AM

What Big Data Can Tell Us About the Things We Eat

Pizza might be the only thing that can bring men and women together.


October 15 • 9:04 AM

‘Looking’ at Art in the Smartphone Age

Technology is a great way to activate gallery space, but it shouldn’t take it over.


October 15 • 8:00 AM

A Brief History of High Heels

How what was once standard footwear for 16th-century Persian horsemen became “fashion’s most provocative accessory.”


October 15 • 7:22 AM

Advice for Emergency Alert Systems: Don’t Cry Wolf

A survey finds college students don’t always take alerts seriously.


October 15 • 6:00 AM

The Battle Over High School Animal Dissection

Is the biology class tradition a useful rite of passage or a schoolroom relic?


Follow us


How to Water a Farm in Sandy Ground

Physicists investigate how to grow food more efficiently in fine-grained soil.

Unlocking Consciousness

A study of vegetative patients closes in on the nature of consciousness.

Advice for Emergency Alert Systems: Don’t Cry Wolf

A survey finds college students don't always take alerts seriously.

Brain’s Reward Center Does More Than Manage Rewards

Nucleus accumbens tracks many different connections in the world, a new rat study suggests.

A City’s Fingerprints Lie in Its Streets and Alleyways

Researchers propose another way to analyze the character and evolution of cities.

The Big One

One company, Amazon, controls 67 percent of the e-book market in the United States—down from 90 percent five years ago. September/October 2014 new-big-one-5

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.