Climate Change

Climate risks in the Great Lakes basin

While many climate change conversations focus on rising sea levels, droughts, or wildfires, Great Lakes residents must understand how climate change will affect their region. Specific projections vary, but scientists predict that the regional climate of the Great Lakes basin will be warmer, wetter, and less icy by the end of the century.

According to the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments (GLISA), some projections for the coming century include:

  • Increases in average air temperatures by 3.6 to 11.2°F (2 to 6.2°C)
  • More intense storms, leading to more damage from winds and flooding
  • Less lake ice, leaving more water exposed to evaporate and become lake-effect rain or snow
  • Larger and more severe algal blooms
  • Fluctuating lake levels
  • Greater displacement of native aquatic and terrestrial species by more adaptable or warmer-weather species
  • More frequent and severe droughts
  • Longer growing season for crops, tempered by crop damage from heat, drought, and pests
  • Increased risk of illness and death from heat waves and pest-borne diseases
  • Interruptions to local economies dependent on winter tourism

Climate and weather in the Great Lakes

The following video is part of a series developed to teach Great Lakes climate science and water quality to students through the Great Lakes Lessons curriculum collection.

Climate adaptation

Understanding these risks can help Great Lakes communities and residents make wise decisions about investing time, energy, and resources into climate resilience and adaptation efforts. These inform on-the-ground decisions such as:

  • Which crops to plant and when
  • How to design or improve stormwater systems
  • How much money a city should budget for snow removal

For more about how communities can build climate change adaptation into their planning processes, see Climate Adaptation.