Originally published on ClickOnDetroit.com. Working with WDIV meteorologist, we produced what have become highly-trafficked, award-winning annual webcasts on the science of climate change and global warming. This was our first one.
Local 4 Caster Paul Gross answered viewer questions Tuesday on global warming during an exclusive ClickOnDetroit.com webcast.
Will global warming have an effect on the water levels in the Great Lakes?
PAUL: Most climate scientists think that Great Lakes water levels will go down in a warmer climate. However, it's not a straightforward question.
Remember that our levels are replenished by winter snow that melts in the spring and flows into the lakes. Summer rain and storms really don't impact the levels, as that moisture is offset by evaporation. So, the big question is: how will global warming impact our winter storms? Obviously, in a warmer world, those close-call winter storms in which we're "on the edge" between rain and snow could tip more frequently toward rain, which doesn't help our lake levels.
HOWEVER, a warmer world means that more ocean water evaporates into the atmosphere, and this increased water vapor translates into more extreme precipitation events.
So, in those winters where the storm track puts us in the winter storm bull's-eye, we end up with more snow than we used to get, which would help our lake levels.
Don't believe me? Then you'd better be sitting down, because this statistic will blow you away: five of Detroit's all-time top ten snowiest seasons have occurred in the past eleven years.
What areas in the US are most susceptible to damage due to climate change? The coasts? Was curious how the drought in California relates to climate change.
PAUL: Coastal areas are obviously at risk ... not just from rising ocean levels (remember, that's salt water...very caustic to inland vegetation), but those higher sea levels mean that storm surges from massive storms and hurricanes push farther inland and do considerably more damage. Also, don't forget that we are seeing increased drought out west -- those areas are really suffering, and many scientists do link that drought to the changing climate.