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Date: Fri, 1 Sep 2006 13:38:41 -0400 (EDT)
From: Lake Champlain Committee <[log in to unmask]" eudora="autourl">[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: [log in to unmask]" eudora="autourl">[log in to unmask]
Subject: Lake Champlain Committee Lake Look Column

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September 2006
 
 

Dear Lake Champlain Committee Members and Activists,

Below you’ll find the most recent issue of LCC’s Lake Look column. In “The Heat Is On”, Staff Scientist Mike Winslow outlines some potential ecological consequences of global warming for Lake Champlain.

Currently, noted environmental author Bill McKibben is leading a five-day walk through the Champlain Valley to raise awareness about global warming. The walk, which culminates at Battery Park in downtown Burlington on Labor Day is a hopeful effort to prompt policy leaders to act. If you live in the area, please consider joining the walk. Go to www.fromtheroadlesstraveled.org for more information and to sign up. If you live too far away to participate in the walk, you can reduce your personal contribution to global warming by following the tips below.

Drive less – Walk, bike, carpool and take mass transit whenever possible. Every mile you don’t drive saves one pound of carbon dioxide.
Buy local food – It takes a lot of energy to ship food across the country.
Replace light bulbs – Replacing a regular light bulb with a compact fluorescent saves 150 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.
Adjust your thermostat – Lowering your thermostat just 2 degrees in winter can save about 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.
Plant a tree – A single tree absorbs one ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime on average.
Reduce use of hot water – By installing low flow showerheads and washing clothes in cold water you can save about 500 pounds of carbon dioxide per year.
For more tips and information, visit http: //www.climatecrisis.net/takeaction/

Everything we do makes a difference.

Sincerely,

Lori Fisher
Executive Director

Lake Look -- The Heat is On
By Lake Champlain Committee Staff Scientist Mike Winslow

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[log in to unmask]" width=192 height=182 alt="15f808e.jpg"> With heat waves sweeping the nation, Al Gore starring in a documentary movie, and Time Magazine offering a cover article on climate in March, global warming has been the subject of extensive discussion in the last few weeks and months. Of the 20 hottest years on record, 19 have occurred since the 1980s or later. The first five years of this century have produced five of the six hottest ever. And early in July the federal government reported that the first half of 2006 was the warmest in the United States since record keeping began. Global warming skeptics are beginning to sound more and more like proponents of a flat earth.

Responding to massive ecological changes like global warming requires first avoidance of the change and then adaptation to new conditions if avoidance fails. Knowledge of potential future conditions helps us prepare for adaptation. To that end, here are some potential ecological consequences of global warming for Lake Champlain.

Warming can bring about physical, chemical, and biological changes in the lake. While some of the physical and chemical changes are fairly straight- forward, others are speculative. Potential biological changes are all more difficult to predict.

Physical changes mostly involve the temperature of the lake. Higher winter temperatures mean reductions in winter ice cover. Such reductions have already begun. Prior to the 1950’s it was very unusual for Lake Champlain not to freeze in a given year, but of late, an absence of ice cover has become a fairly regular event. Higher temperatures mean the lake will stratify earlier in the spring, setting up a warm layer of water over a colder deeper layer, and stay stratified longer. A 1979 study stated stratification in the Main Lake typically began in early June. Over the last four years however, stratification has begun in early to mid-May. Higher temperatures and a lake of ice cover means increased evaporation from the lake. As a result, there is a general agreement, at least in models of the Great Lakes, that average water levels will fall. However, changes in local precipitation patterns greatly influence any such predictions, and such changes may differ between the Great Lakes region and the Champlain Valley.

Most computer models predict an increase in precipitation in the Northeast if global temperatures rise. Furthermore, the intensity of precipitation events is likely to increase, meaning more rains of one inch or more. More intense storms will likely mean increases in flooding and erosion related run- off. More erosion will mean more nutrient delivery to the lake.

Chemically, decreases in the oxygen content of lake water will likely occur. Warm water holds less oxygen than cold water. Additionally, the longer duration of summer stratification would increase the likelihood of oxygen depletion in lower layers. Such oxygen depletion occurs fairly regularly in the Northeast Arm of the lake.

Predicting biological changes in the lake as a result of warming means attempting to integrate the impacts of all the physical and chemical change on each species and speculating about how they will affect that species interactions with other species.

Results to date in other lakes have sometimes been contradictory. In arctic lakes, global warming has led to an increase in algal biomass due to longer growing seasons. On the other hand, in Lake Tanganyika in Africa, algal production has decreased because warmer weather and less wind have meant less nutrient delivery to the water.

Some interactions are more complicated. In Lake Washington near Seattle, algae and their predators had reached population maximums at about the same time of year. Now however, higher temperatures allow the algae to bloom earlier in the summer but the predators have not adapted. The predator population has fallen by more than half over the last 26 years.

Fish too will need to adapt to changing temperatures. Spawning in many species is triggered by optimum temperatures. Earlier warming would mean earlier spawning. Perhaps more importantly, available habitat for cold-water species like trout and salmon could decrease, while habitat for warm-water species like bass could increase.

While global warming has begun, and preliminary effects have been seen in Lake Champlain, there is still a window of opportunity for minimizing future warming. For decades Americans have shunned steps that would help avoid future warming: driving less, developing alternative fuel sources, increasing vehicle fuel efficiency, investing in energy efficiency. Without speedy adoption of strategies like these we will be left only the option of adaptation.

For a list of steps individuals can take visit www.climatecrisis.net/takeaction/

About Lake Look
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LCC's Lake Look Column is distributed monthly to LCC members and runs in 26 local and regional papers throughout the Lake Champlain watershed. Click here to read last month's Lake Look issue "Testing Beaches".

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[log in to unmask]" width=100 height=100 alt="15f82f0.jpg"> You can support LCC’s work for a healthy, accessible Lake by renewing your membership or making a contribution today! Click here to make an online donation at our secure site or send a check to the address below. Thanks for your ongoing support!

Lake Champlain Committee ~ 106 Main Street, STE 200 ~ Burlington, VT 05401
email: [log in to unmask]
phone: (802) 658-1414
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