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ISU Professor: Lake Ice Is Disappearing

Lake Michigan
Kiichiro Sato
/
AP
An aerial view shows downtown Chicago surrounded by snow and icy Lake Michigan

An Illinois State University geologist is a lead author in an international study which shows lake ice is disappearing across the Northern hemisphere.
Assistant professor of geology Catherine O'Reilly said the problem has accelerated in the last 20 years because of climate change.

Catherine O'Reilly
Credit Eric Stock / WGLT
/
WGLT
Illinois State University associate geology professor Catherine O'Reilly is one of the lead authors of an international study that says lake ice is disappearing.

“One of the moments we had working on this study was this is not climate change in the future. This is climate change right now,” O’Reilly said. “Our kids are not going to be having the same kind of experiences. They are not going to grow up in the same world we did.”

O’Reilly said the problem has been especially pronounced in the Great Lakes which she said were frequently covered with ice a century ago.

“The Great Lakes are very susceptible to this because they are very deep and they have a lot of water in them,” O’Reilly said. “It takes a long time to cool down that water and allow ice to form on the top the lake.

O'Reilly said a lack of ice has environmental consequences. She said lakes will be warmer, leading to an increase in algal blooms, which can be toxic to humans and aquatic life.

She added diminishing lake ice has economic consequences and many northern cities have events such as hockey and ice festivals that could be jeopardized.

The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, estimates more than 650 million people could be impacted.

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Eric Stock is a reporter at WGLT.