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What Paris Climate Accord pullout means for Great Lakes

The Paris Climate Accord is designed to have a worldwide reach -- all the way to Paris Township, Mich., near the shore of Lake Huron.

And now that President Trump has pulled the United States out of the Paris agreement, we offer a summary of some climate-related issues in the Great Lakes region.

Weather. The winter of 2016-17 was unusually warm, and ice cover on the Great Lakes was almost non-existent. Cities around the region are bracing for warmer weather -- and more erratic weather, including bigger and more frequent storms.

That could be bad news for a number of reasons -- from erosion along the shoreline to sewage overflows from overburdened municipal utility systems.

Animal adaptation. With warming temperatures, scientists have noticed changes in the migration patterns of birds such as Magnolia warblers and Lincoln sparrows. "Almost across the board we see that birds are arriving earlier," says Marshall Iliff of Cornell University’s Department of Ornithology.

That can threaten some species by throwing off a delicate natural balance. If the birds arrive too early, they might not have a place to make their home, or enough food to feed hatchlings.

Alternative energy. The region has a number of projects that aim to reduce reliance on petroleum -- no surprise because Cleveland’s Charles Brush created the world’s first electric ​wind turbine in the 1800’s.

One potential game-change is Project Icebreaker, a six-turbine demonstration to be located in Lake Erie eight to 10 miles off Cleveland’s shore. It's still in the early stages -- and will likely face more roadblocks -- but the offshore project could literally change the face of the Great Lakes.

Algae blooms. Experts expect relatively more warming in winter than in summer -- and that means a chance for more rain and snow during the months that precede spring, Great Lakes Echo reports.

If that happens, nutrients from livestock, farm fields and urban streets will run off into tributaries and drains. All those extra nutrients can fuel the growth of algae -- especially in areas such as Green Bay and western Lake Erie.

Copyright 2017 Great Lakes Today

Dave Rosenthal
Dave Rosenthal is Managing Editor of Great Lakes Today, a collaboration of public media stations that is led by WBFO, ideastream in Cleveland in WXXI in Rochester, and includes other stations in the region.
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