The National Climate Assessment released on November 23 includes not only predictions of what will happen on a global and national level, but also detailed regional information. The news for the Great Lakes isn’t good, and as this article points out, it’s especially bleak for Lake Erie.
The lake faces several threats, but one of the biggest will be the continued presence of algae blooms and dead zones. The algae blooms are fueled mainly by nutrients from agricultural lands. The amount of nitrogen and phosphorus reaching the lake is increasing, experts say, because larger and more violent storms are causing more erosion in the fields, therefore sending both sediment and nutrients into the waterways that feed Lake Erie—and sending them faster, and in greater concentrations, than before.
The article quotes Joe Cornely, a member of the Ohio Farm Bureau: “Ten or fifteen years ago, we didn’t have these four-inch rainfalls in a two-hour window, but they’re becoming more common. We’re trying to figure out what needs to be done on the farms to mitigate those occurrences.”
Studies at Iowa State University have shown that practices like alternating native prairie vegetation with row crops can somewhat stem the loss of sediment and fertilizer from fields during heavy rains, the article points out.
Larger storms are also expected to increase the number of combined sewer overflows in cities like Cleveland and Akron, which also send pollutants toward the lake.
A recent article in Erosion Control looked at another issue facing Lake Erie: sedimentation and the options for dealing with the material dredged to keep shipping lanes open.
You can find the complete climate assessment report online here.