Greg Stanley: Ice and Walleyes Signal Changing Climate

Star Tribune:

Across Minnesota, lakes are losing up to four days of ice every 10 years, according to the state climatology office. And it’s not just Minnesota: Rivers and lakes across the continent are tending to freeze later and thaw earlier. “You think of all the ways people interact with lake ice — skating, fishing derbies, iceboats,” said John Magnuson, an ecologist and limnologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “And already, in some of these lakes you have about a month less to do it.”

... at the University of Wisconsin, the first school in the country to study the chemistry and makeup of inland lakes, scientists have been keeping that data for decades. The university has tracked ice coverage on Wisconsin lakes since the 1850s. In those days, ice harvesters needed to know when they could venture out on a lake to cut large frozen blocks to sell during summer; parents and school superintendents waited for ice roads that would connect Lake Superior’s Apostle Islands to the mainland.

The longer the data go back, the clearer the pattern becomes: Lakes have less ice now, said Magnuson, who is semiretired after decades with the school’s limnology office. Lake Mendota in Madison gets 30 days less ice coverage — a full month — than it did during the Civil War, the data show. And the thaws have been accelerating, Magnuson said. Six of Lake Mendota’s 10 earliest ice-outs have happened since the late 1990s.

Ice coverage is not just a function of temperatures in the spring and fall. It reflects two larger factors: the area’s average annual temperature and the depth of the lake. Every body of water is continually heating up through the summer. The deeper the lake, the more volume it has to collect and store that heat. The more warmth a lake stores, the longer it takes to freeze, Magnuson said.

For the first time, some of the deepest lakes in southern Wisconsin are starting to have years when they don’t freeze at all. As temperatures continue to climb, that will happen to more and more lakes in Minnesota as well, Magnuson said. The magic number seems to be about 47 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the average temperature for an entire year reaches that point, lakes that have historically frozen over every year start to see some years where they remain open.

Frances Cairncross: A Global Warming Solution is R&D and Phased In Carbon Tax


The world is playing a rigged casino game. “Every year that we inject more CO2 into the atmosphere, we spin the planetary roulette wheel … and the more we continue increasing the emissions that warm the planet, the more the odds are stacked against a favorable outcome.”
So what’s the smartest way to play such a game? Or, more to the point: Is there a way to speed up a massive leap from dirty to clean energy sources that would otherwise take many decades?

A team led by MIT’s Daron Acemoglu has recently argued that the best way to replace carbon-based energy with noncarbon fuels might be to start off with a high level of government subsidies for research and development of clean technologies. (1) Over the course of half a century, these subsidies would be gradually withdrawn and a carbon tax introduced at rates that would build to a crescendo over a century or so before declining. The boost to R&D would speed up the switch to clean energy without cutting economic growth, as a carbon tax alone might do.

Thus the carbon tax would become an effective way to bring about the transition to clean technology only after enough R&D had been done to shift the incentives for innovation.

Nadja Popovich: Lake Ice Future

New York Times:

In a study published last week in the journal Nature Climate Change, scientists for the first time quantified the effects of rising temperatures on ice cover across 1.4 million lakes in the Northern Hemisphere. They found that, from Wisconsin to Japan, thousands of lakes that used to freeze reliably every winter already see some years without ice, and that “an extensive loss of lake ice will occur within the next generation.”

The vanishing ice will affect cold-water ecosystems and be felt by millions of people who live near northern lakes, the study said.

The study.

Ibram X. Kendi: To the Deniers of Reality

The Atlantic:

The disbelievers do not believe that either climate change or racism is real. Or they do not believe they are caused by emissions of greenhouse gases or racist policies. Or they do not believe that regulating them would be better for society.

All this disbelief rests on the same foundation: the transformation of science into belief. It is a foundation built from the economic, political, and ideological blocks that stand the most to lose from the aggressive reduction of carbon-dioxide emissions and racial inequities. These defensive voices engage in the same oratorical process, attack the credibility of scientists, disregarding their consensus and reducing their findings to personal beliefs.

The effect: Science becomes belief. Belief becomes science. Everything becomes nothing. Nothing becomes everything. All can believe and disbelieve all. We all can know everything and know nothing. Everyone lives as an expert on every subject. No experts live on any subject. Years of intense and specialized training and research and reflection are abandoned, like poor Latino immigrants, like the poor body of our planet...

Signs reign in the realm of belief. Belief reigns in the realm of what we cannot or do not know. Let me say it differently. I know because of science. When I do not know, I believe or disbelieve. As such, the end game of the transformation of science to belief is the execution of knowing. And the end of knowing is the end of human advancement...

Fascinating article, and read his conclusion. Nassim Taleb stated “you will never fully convince someone that he is wrong, only reality can”. I guess since our climate is changing at long time scales, many deniers can stick with their false beliefs for a long time. This is why civic leaders are so important — leaders can articulate the needs and push the necessary change forward.

Curt Stager: Walden Pond's Mud




I see no whirligigs here this early in the year, but they are easy to spot on a lake such as Walden when the water is still and they can gather in close, swirling clusters. They overwinter on the bottom and emerge in spring to breed, producing new generations that grow to fingernail length within a few weeks. Each beetle uses flattened legs to paddle quickly through the thin surface film, guided by compound eyes that are each divided, with one-half aimed above the water line and one-half below. Most fish leave whirligigs alone because they leak bitter chemicals when handled, and I have seen newly stocked brook trout, brazen and ignorant from life in the hatchery, snatch whirligigs from below and then spit them back out again like slippery watermelon seeds. Whirligigs often gather in groups that help to discourage predators by pooling more watchful eyes in one place, and the whirling dances within the clusters are not as random as they seem. The individuals on the perimeter are generally searching for fallen gnats, emerging midges, or anything else edible, and they emit ripples like radar to home in on struggling prey. In adult swarms, those closer to the center are more likely to be cruising for mates, using their ripples to communicate with one another and avoid collisions.

Much more has been said and written about Thoreau’s philosopher-poet side than his naturalist side, but as a scientist I am more interested in the latter. The journals that he kept from 1837 to 1861 were so full of natural history observations that they might have become a major scientific work if he had not died of a lung ailment at age 44. He probably thought so, too. Two months before his death in 1862 he wrote a letter to a friend, saying, “if I were to live, I should have much to report on Natural History generally.”

During the winter of 1846, Thoreau drilled more than a hundred holes through the ice of Walden Pond and lowered a weighted line to produce what may be the first map of the floor of an American lake, thereby identifying Walden’s deepest point in the western basin near his cove. In August 1860, he also sent a thermometer down in a stoppered bottle to measure the layered structure of the water column, a first formal analysis of the thermal stratification of the lake. He was amazed at the temperature difference between the upper and lower layers, and he speculated on what it might mean for the resident fish. “What various temperatures, then, the fishes of this pond can enjoy,” he wrote. “They can in a few minutes sink to winter or rise to summer. How much this varied temperature must have to do with the distribution of the fishes in it.”

A great article about the stories that the mud of a lake tells a scientist.

Jennifer-Anne Pascoe: The World's Largest High Arctic Lake Changes


A 1 C increase in temperature has set off a chain of events disrupting the entire ecology of the world’s largest High Arctic lake. “The amount of glacial meltwater going into the lake has dramatically increased,” said Martin Sharp, a University of Alberta glaciologist who was part of a team of scientists that documented the rapid changes in Lake Hazen on Ellesmere Island over a series of warm summers in the last decade.

“Because it’s glacial meltwater, the amount of fine sediment going into the lake has dramatically increased as well. That in turn affects how much light can get into the water column, which may affect biological productivity in the lake.”

The changes resulted in algal blooms and detrimental changes to the Arctic char fish population, and point to a near certain future of summer ice-free conditions.

Sophie Yeo: Resilience to Climate Change

Pacific Standard:

Kodiak Island Borough is a remote community of around 14,000 people that spreads down the coast of the Alaska Peninsula and across 16 islands. It sits downwind from a cluster of active volcanoes, and its six villages are accessible only by boat or plane. It is home to 3,500 oversized bears.

It is also one of the safest places to live in the United States—at least when it comes to climate change. A recent survey of America’s 3,135 counties concluded that this inhospitable stretch of land is the most climate-resilient place in the entire nation...

The results shed light on the vast inequalities in how different parts of the U.S. will deal with such hazards. While places like Kodiak Island are expected to fare well, residents of areas like Appalachia, the southeast, and western Texas are on course to suffer far worse than the average American.

Boom times for fish populations


We’re all familiar with the idea of extreme events. Meteorologists keep us up to date on hurricanes, floods and high temperatures. Economists watch the stock market for signs of crashes or rallies. Researchers spend a lot of time trying to better predict these events, yet are often surprised by the outcomes. According to a new study in the journal Limnology & Oceanography Letters, when it comes to nature’s extremes, nothing seems to beat what happens underwater.

Scientists at the National Science Foundation (NSF) North Temperate Lakes Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site — one of 28 NSF LTER sites — are routinely measuring everything from water temperature to nutrient concentrations to fish populations in Wisconsin lakes.

Taking advantage of several decades’ worth of data, Ryan Batt, the paper’s lead author, and a team of researchers compared data on various physical, chemical and biological variables — 595 variables in total. They found that as the lakes’ temperatures rose and their nutrient concentrations increased, so did the number of organisms living there.

Samantha Oliver: What Two Frozen Lakes Taught Me

Center for Limnology

A. Hinterthuer

A. Hinterthuer

Today, I woke up at my favorite place on earth – Ten Mile Lake, in Hackensack, Minnesota. On the coldest day of the winter thus far, the frozen lake is so bright, so sparkly, it is almost hard to look at. And when you are from a place where 30 below is often the actual temperature (NOT the wind chill), you rely less on the calendar to define the seasons and more on observations of specific events that are tied to the climate.

Summer, to me, never began on the day with the most sunlight, but rather on the day the dock was installed (and ended, of course, when the dock was removed). Winter and spring were always announced by the day the lake froze and thawed.

Then I moved to the relatively tropical city of Madison, where the winter is shorter, but the lakes still provide a checkpoint in our urban phenology. But now my observations are set up as a study of contrasts: my asparagus came up two weeks sooner than my mom’s or simply subtract 10 degrees from Madison’s temperature to guess Hackensack’s temperature. On December 15th this year, I texted my mom: “Is Ten Mile frozen?” “Almost”, she responded. We have this conversation every year, but this year it felt different...

Dave Orrick: Walleye Decline with Global Warming

Pioneer Press:

Natural walleye lakes could be a rarity in Wisconsin by mid-century, thanks to climate change, a new study warns. And the largemouth bass shall inherit the warmer waters — and flourish, the government-funded study further predicts.

By as soon as 2040, a mere 4 percent of Wisconsin lakes might be able to support naturally sustained walleye populations — a 60 percent reduction from today — while the number of lakes conducive to high-abundance largemouth bass populations could rise to 89 percent, up from 60 percent today, according to the study, co-authored by researchers from state and federal agencies...

The bass-walleye transformation isn’t new. For 30 years, researchers have watched traditional walleye lakes become bass-dominated lakes, often to the chagrin of anglers and cabin owners. The root cause is not known for certain, but it correlates with lakes getting warmer as summers have grown hotter and winters have become shorter and less severe, said Gretchen Hansen, the study’s lead author. The warming climate is a likely culprit because biologists have long established that in similar lakes, walleyes dominate in cooler waters and largemouth bass in warmer waters.

Linda Poon: Climate Change Migrations


Nearly 3,000 species of animals in the Western Hemisphere alone will have to find new habitats with more preferable climate conditions by the end of this century, according to a stunning new map by cartographer Dan Majka for the Nature Conservancy.

Called Migrations in Motion, the map outlines how species will move from their current habitats to their new ones while avoiding major manmade and natural barriers. Pink lines indicate the movement of mammals, while the blue and yellow lines represent the migration of birds and amphibians, respectively.

Global Warming Visual

Climate Lab:

The animated spiral presents global temperature change in a visually appealing and straightforward way. The pace of change is immediately obvious, especially over the past few decades. The relationship between current global temperatures and the internationally discussed target limits are also clear without much complex interpretation needed.

Click this link to go to the animated data graphic. An interesting way to present a lot of data!

Thompson and Rogers: Global Warming Threatens Lake Trout

Thunder Bay News:

Warming water from climate change is beginning to encroach on the habitat of Northwestern Ontario’s cold water fish. Research conducted at the Experimental Lakes Area shows the region’s temperature has warmed 0.4 C over each of the last five decades. Shorter winters are heating surface water and delaying lake trout spawning.

The runoff from increasing summer rain is causing a tea-like discolouration, affecting the water’s heat distribution and compounding the change. Added together, fish biologist Lee Hrenchuk can see consequences for aquatic ecosystems beginning to show.

“The average size of an adult fish has been decreasing over time and we’re seeing this mostly in the cold water fish species that are really dependent on having good spring periods and good fall periods where they can do a lot of eating,” Hrenchuk said.

Kevin Duffy: Rare Orchid Threatened with Global Warming

Great Lakes Echo:

As climate change threatens wet landscapes with persistent and intense droughts, natural resource managers look for ways to preserve the remaining habitats of the rare species that dwell in them.

It’s not easy. “There’s a big problem with managing climate sensitive species,” said Sue Galatowitsch, professor of fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology at the University of Minnesota.

That problem – the uncertainty of the future climate – was the focus of a recent study of how best to protect a rare orchid in Minnesota called the small white lady’s slipper.

“Management of very specific, local sites is important because conservation is really a boots on the ground effort,” Galatowitsch said. State plans guide policy, but day-to-day decision-making usually happens one place or person at a time.

Cheryl Katz: Big Northern Lake on Thin Ice

Yale 360:

As temperatures rise, the world’s iconic northern lakes are undergoing major changes that include swiftly warming waters, diminished ice cover, and outbreaks of harmful algae. Now, a global consortium of scientists is trying to assess the toll.

Baikal is just one of many large lakes worldwide showing signs of rapid change as a result of rising temperatures. Majestic water bodies like Baikal and North America’s Lake Superior are integral to regions such as Siberia and the Great Lakes, playing a key role in transport, fisheries, and tourism. They also store the bulk of our planet’s liquid freshwater. But the lake-rich northern latitudes, where the majority of these vital resources lie, are the fastest-warming regions on earth.

More than three in four large lakes above the 40th parallel north, roughly the latitude of New York City and Madrid, have undergone summer surface temperature increases of 2.7 F or higher from 1985 to 2009, a new international research collaboration finds. Some lake temperatures rose more than twice that amount. Nearly all have experienced retreating winter ice, a loss that can interfere with internal circulation, reduce oxygen, and help create fertile breeding grounds for harmful algae. These changes, which appear to be accelerating, have potentially profound consequences for water supply, food, and aquatic life.

John Myers: Lakes Warming Up

Duluth News Tribune:

Lakes across the globe are warming faster than oceans and air temperatures in a sign that climate change may be affecting freshwater environments more than anyone had previously understood.

That’s the finding of a report published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters and announced Wednesday at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union. The study found lakes worldwide warmed an average of 0.61 degrees Fahrenheit per decade between 1985 and 2009.

In northern climates, that increase averaged 1.3 degrees per decade. “The world’s deepest ice-covered lakes warmed twice as fast as the overlying air temperatures,” the report notes.

Temperature is among the most basic factors in lake ecosystems, the study’s authors noted, and when “the temperature swings quickly and widely from the norm, life-forms in a lake can change dramatically and even disappear.”

How long will some people keep their head in the sand? Justice would be served if only those descendants of today's global warming deniers paid the costs of inaction.

Steven Elbow: Lake Conservation Can't Keep Up with Pollution Increases

Cap Times:

A new report says that a 14-year effort to clean up Lake Mendota couldn’t keep up with increasing amounts of phosphorous streaming from the watershed.

The study from the Water Sustainability and Climate Project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison says a 14-year effort to clean up Lake Mendota failed because of changes in farming, land development and climate change.

“There’s been a lot of tremendous work and effort to at least stay on the treadmill,” said co-author Eric Booth, a Climate Project researcher. “The problem is the treadmill keeps getting faster and faster with these other unaccounted for drivers of change.”

The result is that increasing efforts have slowed but not improved the decline of the lakes.

The report is specific to Lake Mendota, but could have implications worldwide as communities elsewhere try to tackle similar problems.

1. More information here and here!

2. In a world with increasing human population and exploitation demands, conservation will at best be a Red Queen Race. We know this to be true, but we don't dare say it because it is too unpleasant for most.

Procrastination on Global Warming Means Coasts Will Continue Flooding

Simon Buckle, writing for IFLScience:

Pete Markham, CC BY-SA

Pete Markham, CC BY-SA

In terms of the physical science, there are perhaps three key headline messages: human influence on the climate system is clear; warming of the climate system is unequivocal; limiting the risks from climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of GHG emissions.

Mitigating our use of fossil fuels lies right at the heart of an effective response to climate change. While a 2°C target remains technically feasible, achieving it will be extremely challenging. The IPCC’s mitigation report compared hundreds of energy modelling scenarios that strongly suggest that to achieve a 2°C target, global GHG emissions would need to be around 40-70% lower than 2010 levels by 2050 and near zero by 2100.

Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)
AR5 provides a clear and up to date view of the current state of scientific knowledge relevant to climate change. It consists of three Working Group (WG) reports and a Synthesis Report (SYR). 

Many aspects of climate change and associated impacts will continue for centuries, even if anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are stopped. The risks of abrupt or irreversible changes increase as the magnitude of the warming increases.


If into the reasons for our procrastination you go, only pain will you find. Greed, denial, and delusion. Your science, save you it will not in a world of corruption and immediate profit.

Human-Assisted Migration

Greg Breining, writing for Ensia:

During the last two springs, contract planters for The Nature Conservancy have spread out through the pine, spruce and aspen forest of northeastern Minnesota. Wielding steel hoedads, they have planted almost 110,000 tree seedlings on public land.

What’s noteworthy about planting trees in a forest? Usually foresters plant seedlings grown from seeds harvested nearby, on the assumption that local genotypes are best suited to local conditions. But these TNC workers were planting red and bur oak (which are uncommon in northern Minnesota) from seed sources more than 200 miles to the southwest, and white pine from as far away as the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, 400 miles to the southeast.

TNC is anticipating a day soon — within the lifespan of a tree — when a changing climate may make the forest unsuitable for some tree species and varieties that now live there. Projections for northeastern Minnesota predict warmer and possibly drier conditions — bad news for the boreal species such as white spruce, balsam fir and paper birch that have defined the forest here for centuries. But a warmer, drier climate would likely make the area better suited for species such as oaks.

Helping trees move with change, patience you must have my young padawan.