September 2, 2009
WOOSTER, Ohio - New insights into understanding fluctuations in water levels in Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes may lie thousands of miles to the West, according to research by Greg Wiles, associate professor of geology at The College of Wooster, and several of his colleagues.
Wiles, whose findings are referenced in an article ("Pearls Unstrung") by
Sid Perkins in the Aug. 29th issue of ScienceNews, says that the Pacific
Northwest has a great bearing on the climate circulation pattern in the Great
Lakes region and therefore the water levels, specifically in Lake Erie.
"Climate variability in the North Pacific and Great Lake water levels are linked through
teleconnections across North America," says Wiles. "Therefore, North
Pacific Rim tree-ring records can be used to reconstruct past lake levels going
back hundreds of years."
Wiles' modeling study is based on a comparison of tree-ring records from the Pacific
Northwest, where he has been conducting research for the past 20 years, and
records of Lake Erie Water levels, which date back about 100 years. "Lake
Erie levels are a 'dipstick' that reflects regional climate variability,"
says Wiles. "By exploring the teleconnection, we can better explain the
variation in climate of the Midwest."
Circulation patterns that affect evaporation and precipitation in the Great Lakes region
are caused, in part, by variations in the North Pacific, according to Wiles and
his colleagues in an article in the March 6 Geophysical Research Letters
(co-authored by Wooster graduate Anne Krawiec)."
What does this tell us about the future? "The key is exploring the climate
links between the two regions and using our tree-ring chronologies in the North
to reconstruct lake levels and thus explore the cycles and extremes of the lake
under past conditions," says Wiles. "One conclusion is that the
recent levels over the past several decades have been experienced before during
the last 250 years, so the recent lows and highs are not unusual over this
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