Great Lakes Losing Water, Climate Change a Significant Factor
Great Lakes water levels are at historic lows, 26 inches below their long term averages, raising prices right at the beginning of the supply chain for iron ore, grain, and coal. For every inch the water levels fall, a freighter needs to leave another 100 tons of goods behind on the dock. That means one of the cheapest and most efficient ways to move freight in the world becomes less efficient and more expensive as the water levels drop.
It's important to note that over 160 million tons of goods are carried on the Great Lakes each year, keeping our nation's industrial belt supplied with raw materials. When ships carry less cargo, the cost per delivered unit increases even before the ore gets turned into steel, translating directly to higher cost for manufacturers and consumers.
The problem became so persistent the International Upper Great Lakes Study was formed in 2007 to initially research causes of water loss and remedial measures. They found a major contributing factor: human induced climate change combined with natural variation. A complex interplay of reduced ice cover in the winter and drier conditions means water in the Great Lakes is evaporating at an increased rate. Since 1973, the Great Lakes have lost 71 percent of their ice cover, leaving them exposed to winter evaporation.
Great Lakes ship image via Shutterstock.
Read more at ENN Affiliate, TriplePundit.