Projecting Changes in Snow, Lake Ice, and Winter Severity in the Great Lakes Region for Wildlife-Based Adaptation Planning

Project Summary

Affiliation(s): Northeast CSC

Principal Investigator(s):
  • Michael Notaro (Nelson Center for Climatic Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Winter conditions have changed substantially in the Great Lakes region over the last 50 years, with the region experiencing rising temperatures, declining lake ice cover, and increased lake-effect snow. These changes have direct implications for economically important wildlife, such as deer and waterfowl. Deer hunting alone contributes $482 million annually to Wisconsin’s economy.
The goal of this project is to identify how winter severity, snowpack, and lake ice could change through the mid- and late-21st century, and how species such as the white-tailed deer and mallard duck will respond. Because currently available climate data is at too coarse a scale to provide information on future conditions for the Great Lakes, researchers transformed these models from a global-scale to a regional-scale. 
Using these models, researchers found that the region could experience substantial warming, reduced lake ice cover, and increased precipitation, with more precipitation falling as rain than snow, among other changes. Such reductions in weather severity could result in delayed autumn-winter migration for dabbling ducks, which would increase foraging pressures on wetlands in the Great Lakes region – highlighting the importance of protecting these wetlands. These changes in migration patterns could also lead to potentially significant economic losses in southern flyway states, as ducks may stay in the Great Lakes region during the winter months.
Predictions of the future distribution of ducks and other wildlife in the region will help guide the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Ducks Unlimited, and other stakeholders in developing adaptation strategies for vulnerable species and in mitigating the potential economic losses that might result from changes in species distribution.

Lake Superior - public domain

Affiliation(s): Northeast CSC

Principal Investigator(s):
  • Michael Notaro (Nelson Center for Climatic Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison)
  • Karl Martin (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)
  • Michael Schummer (Long Point Waterfowl & SUNY Oswego)
  • Christopher Hoving (Michigan Department of Natural Resources)
  • John Coluccy (Ducks Unlimited)

Start Date: September 2014

End Date: August 2017

Project Status: In Progress

Tags: CSC, Northeast CSC, 2014, Great Lakes Basin, Wildlife Impacts, Winter Conditions, Water and Ice, Wildlife and Plants, Education, Modeling and Tools, Rivers, Streams and Lakes, Mammals, Climate and Ecosystem Modeling

Fiscal Year: FY 2014 Projects

Publications & Other

  • Dynamical Downscaling–Based Projections of Great Lakes Water Levels

      • Ice, Snow, and Swamp: Managing Deer in Michigan’s Changing Climate

          • Projected Influences of Changes in Weather Severity on Autumn-Winter Distributions of Dabbling Ducks in the Mississippi and Atlantic Flyways during the Twenty-First Century

              Download all map files

              • necsc_flyway_merge.shp [x-gis/x-shapefile] (Download)
              • necsc_flyway_merge.shx [x-gis/x-shapefile] (Download)
              • necsc_flyway_merge.prj [text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1] (Download)
              • necsc_flyway_merge.shp.xml [application/fgdc+xml] (Download)