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Lake Michigan temperatures spike, good for swimming, but could be bad

Posted at 6:44 PM, Jul 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-14 09:35:57-04

Lake Michigan water temperatures have spiked about 10 degrees hotter than average for this time of year. In fact, it has eclipsed the yearly high which, on average, happens in August, data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows.

Normally the temperatures would be in the low to mid 60's right now; however, surface temperatures have risen to the mid 70's. This is a result of our hot weather spell and quiet winds.

Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows 2020 Lake Michigan water temperatures reaching above-average levels.

That is great for swimming but that might not be good for the environment.

"A short term increases the big concern is I think cyanobacteria blooms," Dr. Madeline Magee the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Monitoring Coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources said.

Cyanobacteria is more commonly known as blue-green algae. It likes to grow in warm and calm water. There aren't any instances of blue-green algae yet. However, it is a possibility.

If these temperatures persist, larger issues could arise.

"Water temperatures so warm it takes a lot longer for (the lake) to cool off and so as the colder air starts moving over that water you get tremendous amounts of evaporation and this is what we saw during those years of really low lake levels," distinguished professor of atmospheric sciences at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Paul Roebber, said.

A map that shows the average surface temperature across Lake Michigan.

In addition to increased evaporation, wildlife's habitats could be impacted. Warmer water means fewer areas for fish to live.

However, with all this being said, both Roebber and Magee said this is all speculative at this point. While the cyanobacteria is a possible short term (and long term) issue, any serious environmental consequences would need sustained above-average temperatures.

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