GLOBAL WARMING AND THE GREAT LAKES Something that I am concerned about, with regard to the future existence of the world, is global warming. How will this phenomenon affect our future? An article I found on the "Science Daily" website [May 11, 2003] intrigued me. The Great Lakes exert a significant influence on passing cyclones, causing storms to speed up and grow in strength, say researchers at the University of Illinois and the Illinois State Water Survey. "Cyclones that traverse the Great Lakes have important impacts on the physical environment and human habitation in the region," said James Angel, a climatologist with the Survey.

"There is a lot of development along the lakes, and when the water level is high-as it is now-the area becomes extremely vulnerable to shoreline damage from these storms. A better understanding of how the Great Lakes affect passing cyclones may allow better forecasting of these storms and their potential effects." The number of potentially dangerous storms is on the rise, they also report. What has been uncovered is that global warming has had a surprising impact on the Great Lakes region of the U. S.

- more snow. A comparative study of snowfall records in and outside of the Great Lakes region indicated a significant increase in snowfall in the Great Lakes region since the 1930 s but no such increase in non-Great Lakes areas. In Syracuse, NY, one of the snowiest cities in the U. S.

, experienced four of its largest snowfalls on record in the 1990 s - the warmest decade in the 20 th century, as a result of global warming, "Recent increases in the water temperature of the Great Lakes are consistent with global warming," as stated by one of the researchers in this study, and goes on to state, "Such increases widen the gap between water temperature and air temperature - the ideal condition for snowfall." The research team compared snowfall records from weather stations within the Great Lakes region dating back from 1931 to 1950. They found a statistically significant increase in snowfall in the lake-effect region since 1931, "but no such increase in the non-lake-effect area during the same period," as stated in the study. This leads me to believe that recent increases in lake-effect snowfall are not the result of changes in regional weather disturbances. The director of NSF's dynamic meteorology program, Steve Nelson states, "The Great Lakes appear to have a significant impact on the weather over much of the eastern United States and Canada." Cities on the south and east sides of the Great Lakes, such as Cleveland and Buffalo, owe much of their snow accumulation each winter to lake-effect storms. He also states, "Anyone who's around the Great Lakes knows about lake-effect snowstorms, and how disruptive they can be.

Results from Lake-ICE will likely translate into better forecasts of timing, location and intensity of lake-effect snow," says Nelson. Using aircraft and other research equipment, scientists from the University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Illinois and other universities will determine how the Great Lakes affect arctic air masses in winter and how heat and moisture from the lakes circulate on several scales. For these researchers, bad weather is great news; they can then get out in the field and study their subject. Working through sleet, snow and icy fog, Lake-ICE researchers hope to gain a better understanding of the Great Lakes' influence on weather both nearby and far away and, more generally, of how the atmosphere reacts to exchanges of heat and moisture with large bodies of water. Project scientists are gathering information on different kinds of lake-effect storms, called "storm flavors." One flavor of storm, for example, lines up in a single band of clouds and dumps snow in one area, like the Indiana towns located along the bend in Lake Michigan. Another storm flavor forms into parallel rows of clouds, showering some cities with snow and sleet but leaving others untouched.

By better understanding the processes that lead to various storm flavors, forecasting will improve in the Midwest and in the East. This phenomenon in the Great Lakes appears to impact storm development as far away as the eastern seaboard. Although results won't be known immediately, if all goes well, Lake-ICE may soon be making a difference by better predicting next winter's storms for those who live in the Great Lakes Snow Belt, and along the entire east coast.