Great Lakes Retrospectives and Prospectives

A Product of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement

Overview

The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (Agreement) is a commitment between the governments of the United States and Canada. First signed in 1972 and most recently amended in 2012, the two countries have coordinated to advance protection and restoration of the Great Lakes for 50 years. Promoting research and advancing the understanding of and communicating about climate change impacts was added to the Agreement with the 2012 amendments as Annex 9: Climate Change Impacts. These retrospective and prospective summaries were developed to mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Agreement in 1972. The retrospectives provide an overview of past climate and lake trends for the Great Lakes and surrounding basins, and the prospectives provide an overview of future climate trends and impacts for each lake and its basin, respectively. These summaries were created through Annex 9: Climate Change Impacts to serve the work being done on the other annexes of the Agreement, in particular the Lakewide Action and Management Plans, and natural resources managers and decision makers across the Great Lakes region.

Retrospectives

Great Lakes trends of the past 50 years
Great Lakes Retrospectives Landing Page

Historical observations for each retrospective summary were retrieved from the NOAA-Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) Great Lakes Monthly Hydrologic Data, Great Lakes Ice Cover Database, and Great Lakes CoastWatch Surface Environmental Analysis, to provide a snapshot of lake level, precipitation, water temperature, and ice trends in the last 50 years.  The 50-year time period of reference is 1972-2021, with the exception of variables that do not have records that far back (ice cover records begin in 1973, water temperature records begin in 1995).

For a more in-depth summary of trends on the Great Lakes, please refer to GLISA’s Sustained Assessment of the Great Lakes Resource.

Click one of the lakes below to be taken to its Retrospective summary.

Lake Superior
Lake Michigan
Lake Huron
Lake Erie
Lake Ontario

These retrospective webpages were developed by the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments (GLISA) team with funding from National Atmospheric and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Team and Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR).

GLISA Contributors

Kim Channell, Omar Gates, and Patrick Britt

Prospectives

Anticipated Great Lakes trends of the future
Great Lakes Prospectives Landing Page
Given the effects of climate change on lake temperatures, ice cover, and many other variables, the physical dynamics of the lakes are not the same today as they were in decades past, nor will they be the same in the future. Climate models can be a helpful tool in identifying important information about direction change and estimated magnitude of future trends. Each lake-specific prospective report includes an overview of impacts in the basin, and utilizes a multimodel ensemble of climate model simulations to analyze future projections for lake levels, overlake precipitation, air temperature, evaporation, and runoff. The reports also examine uncertainty and model biases, so that potential users can make an informed decision about utilizing these results in their applications.

Click one of the lakes below to be taken to its Prospective Report.

Lake Superior
Lake Michigan
Lake Huron
Lake Erie
Lake Ontario

These summary reports were developed by the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments (GLISA) team with funding from Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC).

GLISA Contributors

Kim Channell, John DelPizzo, Laura Briley, Richard Rood, Jenna Jorns, and Kate Hutchens

Acknowledgements

The Retrospectives and Prospectives were developed with support from an advisory group made up of the following individuals:

  • Alex Cannon, Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Steve Clement, Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Jennifer Day, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Jenessa Doherty, Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • John Haugland, Environmental Protection Agency
  • Shaffina Kassam, Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Doug Kluck, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Sharon Lam, Toronto and Regional Conservation Authority
  • Glenn Milner, Climate Risk Institute
  • Biljana Music, Ouranos
  • Michael Notaro, University of Wisconsin
  • Frank Seglenieks, Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Ram Yerubandi, Environment and Climate Change Canada
If you have questions, comments, or feedback on the Great Lakes Retrospectives and Prospectives, please contact Kim Channell (kimchann@umich.edu)