Menus Subscribe Search

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

July 29 • 11:23 AM

Where Should You Go to College?


July 29 • 10:29 AM

How Textbooks Have Changed the Face of War

War is more personal, less glorious, and more hellish in modern textbooks than in the past. But there’s still room for improvement.


July 29 • 10:00 AM

The Monolingual American: Why Are Those Outside of the U.S. Encouraging It?

If you are an American trying to learn German in a large German town or city, you will mostly hear English in return, even when you give sprechen your best shot.


July 29 • 8:00 AM

The Elusive Link Between Casinos and Crime

With a study of the impact of Philadelphia’s SugarHouse Casino, a heated debate gets fresh ammunition.


July 29 • 6:00 AM

What Are the Benefits of Locking Yourself in a Tank and Floating in Room-Temperature Saltwater?

After three sessions in an isolation tank, the answer’s still not quite clear.


July 29 • 4:00 AM

Harry Potter and the Battle Against Bigotry

Kids who identify with the hero of J.K. Rowling’s popular fantasy novels hold more open-minded attitudes toward immigrants and gays.


July 29 • 2:00 AM

Geographic Scale and Talent Migration: Washington, D.C.’s New Silver Line

Around the country, suburbs are fighting with the urban core over jobs and employees.


July 28 • 4:00 PM

Border Fences Make Unequal Neighbors and Enforce Social Inequality

What would it look like if you combined Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, demographically speaking? What about the United States and Guatemala?


July 28 • 2:00 PM

Are Patient Privacy Laws Being Misused to Protect Medical Centers?

A 1996 law known as HIPAA has been cited to scold a mom taking a picture of her son in a hospital, to keep information away from police investigating a possible rape at a nursing home, and to threaten VA whistleblowers.


July 28 • 12:00 PM

Does Internet Addiction Excuse the Death of an Infant?

In Love Child, documentary filmmaker Valerie Veatch explores how virtual worlds encourage us to erase the boundary between digital and real, no matter the consequences.


July 28 • 11:11 AM

NASA Could Build Entire Spacecrafts in Space Using 3-D Printers

This year NASA will experiment with 3-D printing small objects in space. That could mark the beginning of a gravity-free manufacturing revolution.


July 28 • 10:00 AM

Hell Isn’t for Real

You may have seen pictures of the massive crater in Siberia. It unfortunately—or fortunately—does not lead to the netherworld.


July 28 • 8:00 AM

Why Isn’t Obama More Popular?

It takes a while for people to notice that things are going well, particularly when they’ve been bad for so long.


July 28 • 7:45 AM

The Most Popular Ways to Share Good and Bad Personal News

Researchers rank the popularity of all of the different methods we have for telling people about our lives, from Facebook to face-to-face.


July 28 • 6:00 AM

Hams Without Ends and Cats Tied to Trees: How We Create Traditions With Dubious Origins

Does it really matter if the reason for why you give money to newlyweds is based on a skewed version of a story your parents once told you?


July 28 • 4:00 AM

A Belief in ‘Oneness’ Is Equated With Pro-Environment Behavior

New research finds a link between concern for the environment and belief in the concept of universal interconnectedness.


July 25 • 4:00 PM

Flying Blind: The View From 30,000 Feet Puts Everything in Perspective

Next time you find yourself in an airplane, consider keeping your phone turned off and the window open.


July 25 • 2:00 PM

Trophy Scarves: Race, Gender, and the Woman-as-Prop Trope

Social inequality unapologetically laid bare.


July 25 • 1:51 PM

Confusing Population Change With Migration

A lot of population change is baked into a region from migration that happened decades ago.


July 25 • 1:37 PM

Do Not Tell Your Kids That Eating Vegetables Will Make Them Stronger

Instead, hand them over in silence. Or, market them as the most delicious snack known to mankind.



July 25 • 11:07 AM

The West’s Groundwater Is Being Sucked Dry

Scientists were stunned to discover just how much groundwater has been lost from beneath the Colorado River over the past 10 years.


July 25 • 10:00 AM

Shelf Help: New Book Reviews in 100 Words or Less

What you need to know about Bad Feminist, XL Love, and The Birth of Korean Cool.



July 25 • 8:00 AM

The Consequences of Curing Childhood Cancer

The majority of American children with cancer will be cured, but it may leave them unable to have children of their own. Should preserving fertility in cancer survivors be a research priority?


Follow us


Subscribe Now

How Textbooks Have Changed the Face of War

War is more personal, less glorious, and more hellish in modern textbooks than in the past. But there’s still room for improvement.

NASA Could Build Entire Spacecrafts in Space Using 3-D Printers

This year NASA will experiment with 3-D printing small objects in space. That could mark the beginning of a gravity-free manufacturing revolution.

The Most Popular Ways to Share Good and Bad Personal News

Researchers rank the popularity of all of the different methods we have for telling people about our lives, from Facebook to face-to-face.

Do Not Tell Your Kids That Eating Vegetables Will Make Them Stronger

Instead, hand them over in silence. Or, market them as the most delicious snack known to mankind.

The West’s Groundwater Is Being Sucked Dry

Scientists were stunned to discover just how much groundwater has been lost from beneath the Colorado River over the past 10 years.

The Big One

One in two full-time American fast-food workers' families are enrolled in public assistance programs, at a cost of $7 billion per year. July/August 2014

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