Tag Archives: Climate Change

Michigan’s Turtles; A Warning for Change

The Michigan turtle is a profound example of the influence contaminated and deteriorating water systems have on social and culture traditions.  The Great Lakes Woodland Indians have recognized and respected the turtle throughout their history.  Mackinac Island shows this reverence, for it means, “Great turtle” in Ottawa language.  Turtles, according to oral stories and traditions, represent peace, patience, and most often, long life.

But Michigan turtles, in recent years, have become endangered.  And the reasons are evident: increased development has allowed for runoff of contaminants into watersheds, increased traffic volumes, and predators.

But turtles only represent one of the smaller issues for Native American communities and culture.  Water deterioration continues to affect and destroy many sacred practices of Native American life.  Now the issues that remains is how to balance between respect for the Native American tribe’s cultural connection with water, with the mass use of water in the United States by industries, residences, and commercial enterprises alike.

What needs to be implemented in the future is an increased awareness and understanding of the cultural significance of water in native communities as well as more developed collaborations amongst tribal leaders and interested parties.  In recent years there has been such improvements in these matters.

One such example is National Geographic’s article on how climate change is linked to waterborne diseases in Inuit Communities.  The report found that as global warming triggers heavier rainfall and faster snowmelt in the Arctic, Inuit communities in Canada are reporting more cases of illness attributed to pathogens that have washed into surface water and groundwater.  The startling implications, however, is that native communities worldwide are disproportionately affected by climate change because of their intimate cultural and spiritual connections with water.  But the silver lining in the article is that a cultural-specific lens is now being applied to such areas of scientific research.  This blending of culture and science is making great strides in the ways marginalized communities are able to adapt and survive when such ecological problems are thrown at them.

Alex Krevitz

Sources:

http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/…/climate-change-waterborne-diseases-inuit/

Conveinant Misinformation

We all watched An Inconvenient Truth in class a few weeks ago. For me it was the first time I had seen it. I’ve always heard great things about it, but was never really interested in it. Turns out I was right in feeling that way. I disagree with, and question nearly everything stated by Mr. Gore in that movie. Everything is just his word, with little more than “scientists” to back him up. Who are these scientists? We are never given any names or credentials. We never see them. We never hear what they actually have to say. The only thing this movie has convinced me of is that Al Gore has no idea what the scientific process is. This seemed little more than an exercise in fear mongering through sensationalism and a great vehicle for some political campaign.

Let’s start at the beginning. Mr. Gore states that one of his professors started measuring CO2 in 1957 in the middle of the pacific. After just a few years of taking these measurements it was concluded that levels were rising and we were in for some trouble. Hold on now, the Earth is hundreds of millions of years old. You really expect me to believe that with just 10 years of measurements you can tell whether or not this is out of the norm for our planet? 10 years for the Earth is less time than it takes to blink, relatively speaking. He goes on to say that by taking ice cores we can measure atmospheric gases going back 650,000 years. Well that’s better, but it’s still not enough. When looking at that timeline, yes, it would seem CO2 levels have risen. But if you look back 500 million years we’ve practically bottomed out. Currently we’re concerned about CO2 being at 300 ppm (parts per million) in the atmosphere. In the Cambrian period CO2 levels reached 7000 ppm. That is inconceivably higher than today’s levels. Think about it this way, the Earth’s current average temperature is roughly 60 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on who you ask. How many reptiles do you see running around on a 60 degree day? Not many. And these ones are small, it doesn’t take nearly as much heat and energy to warm them up as it would a two ton reptile. So imagine a planet full of two ton reptiles running around. It would have to be pretty warm right? Well it was. The average temperature 500 – 600 million years ago, and actually throughout most of history, is about 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit. I know that doesn’t sound like a huge difference, but spread across the entire globe, it really is. There’s one more thing I’d like to mention about his graph that showed the last 650,000 years. He said it was the first time anyone outside of a very small group of scientists had ever seen the image. So this image was never put under peer review? To be scrutinized and analyzed by the rest of the scientific community? Well then by definition it’s not yet proven. It’s still only a theory.

It was also stated that at some point recently relative to the development of the movie that many areas in the U.S. “broke all-time records with high temperatures and number of consecutive days with a 100 degree temperature or more.” That’s cute. I like those little bits when I watch the news. Then I can go around and point out to people that I ended up moving across town on the hottest day we’ve had in 15 years. Recorded temperatures only go back to about the early 1900’s. It’s really meaningless. Gore also points out the “drunken trees” of the north tundra. He claims that they lean every which way because the permafrost is melting and the roots are losing their hold. Wrong. That is absolutely, stupidly wrong. Tree roots never stop growing, it’s like hair. And if they happen to hit something hard, they keep pushing until they find a way to go, be it up or down or just straight through. If roots just stopped whenever they hit something hard we’d never have to repair our sidewalks. I guarantee once the permafrost began to soften those roots took off at a million miles an hour. If those trees are tilting, it’s not because of that. It’s also suspicious to me that he only showed the tops of the trees, not the base. Seems like you would want to show the ground and roots in question. Unless of course you know it’s not true.

And through all of this every time Gore is shown working in his car it’s a nice big Mercedes. I guess not even global warming is worth being seen in a Prius.

-Justin Bell

Sources:

http://www.usnews.com/…/scientist-carbon-dioxide-doesnt-cause-global-warming

http://www.ncpa.org/pdfs/GlobalWarmingPrimer.pdf

Algal Growth in The Great Lakes

The outbreak in algae growth in the great lakes is a subject that is close to home for me. My Family has a cottage on Lake Charlevoix, which is directly connected to lake Michigan. Lake Charlevoix as well as many other lakes are also experiencing algal outbreaks. These outbreaks are not directly harmful to humans but show that the residential development and other human activity are altering the delicate ecosystem that we need to fight to preserve.

               The algae thrive on minerals washed into the lakes from multiple sources including, lawn fertilizers, septic tanks, storm water runoff and sewage plant waste matter that has not been treated well enough.  This has been linked to higher water temperatures and lower lake levels. As well as greater water clarity caused by the invasive Zebra Mussels.

Many think the bigger culprits are the Zebra Mussels rather than the phosphorus pollution. Zebra Mussels are an invasive species that reached the Great Lakes in the late 1980’s. The mussels promote algae growth by filtering water and making it clearer, allowing sunlight to penetrate deeper. Shoreline algae, known as cladophora, often fastens itself to the mussel shells and feeds on their waste.

The only mitigation that is known of is reducing the amount of phosphorous that enters the water from runoff. This is the only way people can help reduce future algae growth because attempts to curb the zebra mussels increasing populations has been extremely ineffective. There has been no safe way discovered to remove the mussels. Some ways citizens can help reduce the amount of phosphorus entering the lakes by locating the source of the phosphorus and reduce the amount of lawn fertilizers they use or repair any possible septic field leakage. These are two things we have done to help curb the algae growth at my cottage. We recently replaced or septic tank and stopped using fertilizers on our lawn.

The algal blooms shows that we needed to attempt to prevent additional exotic species from entering the Great Lakes system as well as the need for continued research on the affects of phosphorous and Zebra Mussels and other possible mitigation techniques.

http://lakecharlevoix.org/Protecting/shoreline.htm
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/great-lakes-algae-outbreak-confounds-experts

– Austin Wertheimer

Global Warming and Agricultural Effects

One could go on and on talking about all of the natural hazards that pose a threat to our society, but there are many things that are often overlooked. While I’m sure that we all know about global warming, do we really understand why it is happening? The unfortunate truth is that as time passes, and our society becomes more and more modernized, our ozone layer becomes more “fogged up” with what are called green house gases. These gases trap the heat from the sun causing a “heat blanket” which is what causes what we know to be global warming. This kind of effect causes extreme weather patterns such as the ones recently seen, even here in Michigan. According to Jake Crouch, a Climate Scientist at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Ashville NC, not only has this “warm weather been going on for several months, but that those types of extremes are supposed to get more frequent because of manmade climate change from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil”. It is essential that this matter is recognized not only as a state but as a whole nation.

WEB_Solar-panels.jpg            Here in Michigan, our state is greatly known for its agricultural aspects as well as our great lakes. Our state is the leading producer of fruits such as cherries and blueberries. The extreme weather fluctuations that our state has been experiencing in increasing amounts can and has been having a negative influence to our farmers and their business. Yes it may be better in the sense that the farmers can start their cropping sooner, and may be able to crop a larger variety of foods, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it is better. According to the “Union of Concerned Scientists”: ” higher ozone concentrations can damage soybeans and horticultural crops, countering positive impacts of a warmer climate”. The warm weather also impacts in that we will have warmer summers which will cause more droughts which is also something that can damage much of our farming industries.

With the population increasing at a very fast rate, it is important for our farming industry to continue to be successful, and efforts need to be made so that our country does not have to face any more food insecurity and hunger. We need to teach people about how to be more “green” and introduce them to alternative energy so that we are not burning as much coal and contributing any more to the green house gases in our atmosphere. Something else that needs to be done is that farmers need to learn to adjust to the warmer weather so to yield the best results in this changing climate.

Sources:

http://www.ucsusa.org/greatlakes/glregionmic_agr.html

http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012304090032

Patricia Garza-Tamez

Michigan: put up with the little things; never have to face the big ones(?)

As a Michigan native, there are only two things that I have “always said” about my home state. First: that I believe our state’s nickname should be changed from “The Great Lakes State” to “The Weather State” because, while the great lakes have a profound effect on our shape and secondarily on our climate, it is the crazy weather in this state that so profoundly shapes the experience of living here day to day. Second, a belief I began to form in High School as Katrinas and Ivans and Indonesian Tsunamis and Icelandic volcanoes reared their ugly heads, that is: nothing bad ever happens here. Obviously, that is an exaggeration and a basely incorrect statement… but think about it. We are in the perfect location here in The Mitten to avoid most of the catastrophe that Mother Nature unleashes on this world, and for that matter, this hemisphere; a climatological “goldilocks zone” if you will.

To further confirm my beliefs, I came across this ranking in an independent financial blog that lists the ten larger size cites in the nation that are safest from natural disasters; Grand Rapids, MI (my hometown) was ranked number four after factoring in the instance of violent crimes per 100,000 people. There are many similar lists and rankings all over the internet and none of them list the same top ten, but ALL of them contain a great number of cities from the Midwest and New England.

This got me thinking about the future, especially after viewing An Inconvenient Truth in class several weeks back. I want to avoid the question of whether or not Gore’s claims in the film or overblown or exaggerated or if global warming is as immediate a danger as the film claims it is; to me, it has little relevance. What all scientists seem to agree on in one way or another is this: whether the human race is causing it or not, that the oceans’ water levels will continue steadily to rise as time goes on and arctic ice melts… and beyond the problem this could pose for coastal cities, this rise could also potentially have a large impact on global weather and climate patterns.

Now, as this projection of the new world map without ice caps shows, Michigan is still sitting high and dry, the Great Lakes obviously sitting high enough in elevation to escape the flooding occurring at the oceans’ coasts. Now I allow that the map will likely not look like this for a long time, if ever, but ice is melting and the effects of this will surely be felt in some magnitude as the process continues ongoing. If Michigan is indeed the “The Weather State” then won’t it feel the effects of potentially shifting global weather patterns? I’d have to say “yes, probably” but I don’t know if that makes me wish I was living anywhere else when all this starts hitting the fan in however many years from now. I would assume that weather here will likely become more extreme, as it will likely everywhere in the world. Michigan has the second highest occurrence of lightning related deaths in the nation and the state is over fifty percent forested so it’s natural to assume wildfires will increase in severity and frequency as well as the property damage and death tolls that go along with it. Perhaps tornados will happen with more frequency and winters may be harder, but even given all that, I just can’t see it getting much worse here in Michigan than anywhere else in the nation or the world as these global weather patterns begin to potentially shift and change. If this was the only thing affecting my decision, I don’t think I’d ever leave.

Dylan DeVries

Global Warming Affecting the Health of Michigan Residents

Michigan’s climate has been affected negatively by global warming just like the rest of the world. However, it is especially important to monitor Michigan’s climate because the possible effect on our enormous fresh water supply. It can be difficult for people to wrap their heads around the long term effects of global warming because it is such an extensive issue affecting all aspects of our daily life. However, if we look at the effects on our health, it is easier to put the consequences of global warming, in perspective. If human survival is at stake, people are much more likely to be concerned with the issue at hand.

Global warming causes a rise in average temperature of our earth. The combination of human and environmental factors leads to several health threatening changes in our lives. Agriculture, water quality, UV exposure, and life-threatening storms will all be affected due to changes in our earth’s climate. It is so important to study these effects because they will directly affect the safety and livelihood of future generations.

First of all and probably most obvious is the increase in heat-related deaths that are a result of the increase in average temperature and increase in the number of days of extreme heat. The human body cannot withstand extreme heat for long periods of time, especially in times of water shortages and power outages. The number of days of extreme heat is expected to double or triple in cities like Detroit in the next few years. This extreme heat can cause fainting, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and even death. These symptoms can be prevented but they require careful planning and lots of water.

Water is crucial to human survival but global warming has many negative effects on water quality as well. The increase in sea levels along our coasts could flood many cities, resulting in a drop in water quality and a direct health risk to humans in the nearby areas. Also, when our river flows decrease and the temperature continues to rise, this will greatly increase the pollutants in our rivers and bays, because there will be less water to dilute our supplies. Even large storms that will be a result of global warming will cause more runoff, and flooding of our sewage systems, increasing the infectious disease in our waterways.

Another life-threatening effect of global warming is the intensity of the sun’s rays. As our atmosphere is damaged due to the gases that we release into the air, the sun’s UV rays become more intense. These UV rays are responsible for skin damage that can even lead to cancer. Although we have sunscreen to protect ourselves, as the problem gets worse, it will become more difficult to completely protect ourselves. This damage to our atmosphere will also increase the incidence of ground level ozone. This will decrease air quality and therefore lead to increase incidence of respiratory diseases.

Michigan residents will experience all o f these negative health effects if we do not start to change our lifestyles and protect our earth from the effects of global warming.

http://www.ucsusa.org/greatlakes/glregionmic_hea.html

http://www.michigan.gov/mdch/

Kelly Cummins

Damage to Cherry Crop is the Pits

It’s true that most of the students at Michigan State University loved the week of warm weather in March, along with many others in Michigan, but any Michigander knew that weather like that wasn’t going to last long.  The weather quickly turned back to winter and forced us to get our coats back out.  For farmers, the transition wasn’t so easy.  These fluctuating temperatures didn’t help farmers at all, the frozen temperatures following the summer like weather “wiped out a big portion of the cherry crop in Northwest Michigan.”

According to some researchers, this warm up was historic.  The temperatures reached were record breaking.  Although it hasn’t been said to be a direct result of climate change, one researcher says that these temperatures fit the “predicted long term pattern of change.”  The early warm temperatures caused the fruit buds to advance to a “stage of development that left them very vulnerable to temperatures below freezing,” so when an overnight frost hit, the cherry crops in northwestern Michigan suffered.  Many farms lost 50% to 70% of their crop, but some lost as much as 90%.  The farmers also have to deal with a longer season of fighting pathogens and pollination problems brought on by the warm temperatures.  Being that fruit production is a major industry in Michigan’s economy, these losses reach far beyond the kitchen.

Growers hope to salvage their crop and make the most of what they have, but losing money in such a lowly economy is hard.  For now, the government could provide some assistance to help the growers make it through to next year and hope that such temperature fluctuations don’t happen again.  Growers could have a more active approach and try to prevent this situation from happening again.  By looking into the various ways to prevent their crops from freezing, growers could then decide if such methods would be worth it.  What are your ideas for possible prevention strategies?  How can we deal with what has already happened?  Post your ideas below!

Bonnie Lowry

Sources:

http://www.environmentreport.org/show.php?showID=629

http://bloggingformichigan.com/2012/04/16/west-michigan-fruit-production-devastated-by-bizarre-weather/

Michigan and the Great Lakes

Michigan’s climate is very unpredictable. One day it could be 30 degrees and snowing and the next day it could be 50 degrees and sunny. You never know what to expect when living in Michigan. The winters can get freezing cold while in the summer there can be heat waves. Michigan experience all four of the seasons, winter, summer, spring, and fall, and we see them all. Michigan’s climate is also good for vegetation. With the amount of precipitation, Michigan is able to grow things like cherries, berries, and black beans.

There are eight states that border the five Great Lakes. They are Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and of course Michigan. The Great Lakes are Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Ontario, Lake Huron, and Lake Erie. According to an article that I read, the Great Lakes a have a big influence on the climate. Acting as a giant heat sink, the lakes moderate the temperatures of the surrounding land, cooling the summers and warming the winters. As a result, there will be a milder climate in in parts of the basin compared to other locations with similar latitude. Also, acting as a giant humidifier, the lakes increase the moisture content of the air throughout the year. In the winter, the moisture becomes snow as it reaches the ground sometimes creating a heavy snowfall, known as snow belts, on the downwind shores of lakes.

The Great Lakes is the single largest source of fresh water in the world. It is used for drinking, hydroelectric power, commercial shipping, and recreation. The Great Lakes is also big on plants and wildlife. The Great Lakes undergo problems such as urban sprawl, air and water pollution, and habitat fragmentation which are already stressing the ecosystems of the Great Lakes region. Global climate change looms as an additional threat to the region’s economy, population, and wildlife by changing climate patterns and compounding the negative effects of current environmental problems.

Kalaundra Hall

http://www.great-lakes.net/envt/refs/weather.html

http://www.climatehotmap.org/impacts/greatlakes.html

Global Warming

It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, if you are in the North Pole or the South Pole; global warming is everywhere and affecting everyone. It is the unusually rapid increase in the Earth’s average temperature over the past century due to the greenhouse gases released by nature and humans. The mercury has already been raised more then 1 degree Fahrenheit and even more in more sensitive Polar Regions. The effects of the temperature rising are happening right now. With the increasing temperatures: ice is melting worldwide, sea level have risen faster over the last century, some animals and plants have moved farther north to cooler areas, and precipitation has increased across the world. If the warming continues there are other effects that could happen later this century. Sea levels are supposed to rise somewhere between 7 and 23 inches, stronger hurricane and storms, floods and droughts will become more common, and ecosystems will change. The most common greenhouse gas responsibly for global warming is carbon dioxide. In the U.S. we are responsible for 19.91% of the carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. Carbon dioxide takes 100 years to completely disappear from the atmosphere. The rise in greenhouse gases is a problem because it is changing the climate faster than some living things can be able to adapt. A more unpredictable climate poses a challenge to all life. The deaths per year are being blamed on the effects of global warming which are extreme weather, droughts, heat waves, and the increase spread of diseases. There are many things we can do to reduce global warming. We could buy products with minimal packaging, recycle everything you can, use less heat and air condition, use compact fluorescent light bulbs, drive less and smart, buy energy-efficient products, use less hot water, plant a tree and encourage others to conserve.

http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/gw-effects/

http://www.dosomething.org/tipsandtools/11-facts-about-global-warming

http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/gw-overview

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/GlobalWarming/

Makenzi Mantey

Great Lakes and Global Warming

Living in Michigan, the Great Lakes are extremely important. Not only are they a great source for water, food and transportation, but they also are a huge attraction for tourists to come to our state. People love the beautiful lakes for many reasons, including swimming, boating and fishing. In fact, boating produces $35 billion for the United States annually, while fishing, hunting and other wild life activities make $18 billion. Unfortunately, global warming is causing harm to the Great Lakes and the wildlife that depends on them. One thing that global warming is causing, is warmer water temperatures. This makes the water less suitable for the cold water fish that live there, and more suitable for the invasive species, such as zebra mussels. It also can create “dead zones”, places with no oxygen, because of the uncontrolled algae growth. It also harms the economy in the winter for the Great Lake states, seeing as there is less ice on the lakes in the winter for snowmobiling and ice fishing. Another thing that global warming is affecting is the water levels. The lakes are decreasing in water levels, and the could drop 4-5 feet within the century. This would change the internal water cycling, and could also lead to “dead zones”. The habitats by the shoreline would be dramatically altered as well. The moose population in Minnesota is already decreasing because of the warmer temperatures, and if it continues, there may not be a moose population at all in Minnesota. The decrease in water levels will also make the quality of the water go down by exposing polluted sediments. Economically, this would hurt the shipping done on the lakes. Global warming has a lot more effects that could be potentially harming in the long run which is why there have been some movements to try and protect the Great Lakes. Hopefully we can prevent any further damage and begin to reverse what has already happened.

 

http://www.nwf.org/Global-Warming/Effects-on-Wildlife-and-Habitat/Great-Lakes.aspx

http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/05/28/us-climate-greatlakes-idUSN2832126520080528

Megan Ludwig