Changing Climate, Warming Lakes and an “Endangered” Outdoor Experience

Tomorrow evening at the Minocqua Brewing Company, former CFL director, John Magnuson, will team will UW-Madison climate scientist, Ankur Desai, for our science cafe series “Science on Tap-Minocqua.” The topic tomorrow is climate change in Wisconsin. And one thing that will undoubtedly come up is an altered outdoor recreation landscape. Especially in winter.

These lucky visitors in 2007 got to hike on the thick Lake Superior ice to see the "ice caves" that form in winter. The park service hasn't issued a "safe ice" alert, clearing hikes to the caves since 2009. Photo: Damon Panek, NPS
These lucky visitors in 2007 got to hike on the thick Lake Superior ice to see the “ice caves” that form in winter. The park service hasn’t issued a “safe ice” alert clearing hikes to the caves since 2009. Photo: Damon Panek, NPS

Yesterday, an article ran on the news service, Environment & Energy Publishing, about the “endangered” experience of visiting Lake Superior’s ice caves. The story reminded yours truly of last year at this time, when I was shin-deep in slush on Trout Lake photographing Trout Lake Station’s annual LTER Schoolyard event. Times are changing, folks. Keep reading below for a an excellent article on what warmer winters mean to northern Wisconsin and the Apostle Islands.
Great Lakes Community Defined by Ice Ponders Life Without It
Daniel Cusick, E&E reporter
For decades, winter visitors to Apostle Islands National Lakeshore on Wisconsin’s rugged Lake Superior coast have marveled at the artistry that happens when water, waves and subfreezing temperatures converge, creating natural ice sculptures as artful as glassworks.
The ephemeral event, when upstream rivulets flow into caves at the lake’s edge and harden into blue-green stalactites anchored in a bed of clear Lake Superior ice, is so popular with tourists that the National Park Service maintains a telephone hotline to let people know when it’s safe enough to make the 2-mile hike across the hardened lake to view what are called the sea caves.

Here. Going. Gone. Once-mighty Lake Superior ice makes a cameo, three-day appearance this year at the Apostle Islands. Photos courtesy of the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Here. Going. Gone. Once-mighty Lake Superior ice makes a cameo, three-day appearance this year at the Apostle Islands. Photos courtesy of the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

On a sunny weekend in February, the Park Service phone line can receive hundreds of calls from visitors looking to experience the caves, said Bob Krumenaker, the Apostle Islands superintendent. “It’s probably the most unique experience you can have up here.”
It’s also becoming one of the most rare. Read the full article here.
Ted Bier takes LTER ice data on Lake Mendota, 2012.
Ted Bier takes LTER ice data on Lake Mendota, 2012.

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