Happy New Year from the Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation!I hope you enjoy this month’s edition. It is an educational article describing what happens to your lake during these cold winter months when most of us are enjoying the warmth of our homes.
The Coastal Centre has been busy planning for 2017. Some of the main programs we are planning for are:
- The Coastal Action Plan - A comprehensive plan of the waterfront from Sarnia or Tobermory to benefit citizens and government
- Coast Watchers - A citizen science program where volunteers record data and forward it to us to collate
- Butt Free Beach - A program to promote the elimination of cigarette butts on our waterfront beaches
- Shoreline Cleanups - Organizing cleanups with partners to rid our beaches of trash
- Protecting Species at Risk - Educational program about coastal wetlands, to protect Species at Risk
- Invasive Species Management - Education on invasive species, and hands-on work to manage invasive species with a particular focus on Phragmites australis
- Green Ribbon Champion - A shoreline stewardship and education program designed to provide advice, resources, and support to residents along the Lake Huron coastline.
These are our main programs; however, we do considerable work supporting Municipalities along our shoreline, educators and cottage associations.
I would like to thank those of you able to support us financially over the last year. Your donations are what keep our programs running and our doors open.
~ Matt Hoy
What Happens to Lake Huron in the Winter?
As the seasons turn, so do the Great Lakes. Changes in the temperature profile of a lake is called thermal stratification. As the air temperature cools in the fall, the water at the surface of the lake becomes cooler and more dense. This dense water sinks to the bottom, mixing the lake water and creating a uniform temperature, while replenishing oxygen and nutrients. This movement of water, called “fall overturn” also has implications for the distribution of pollutants.
As winter approaches, and the surface temperature of the lake drops down to 4oC the water no longer sinks and the water molecules begin to solidify. As the water temperature reaches 0oC ice begins to form, and ice cover prevents the wind from mixing the water. The water begins to form layers, called “stratification”, which could be compared to a delicious trifle. The lower layer is usually around 4oC and the upper layer, just under the ice, is usually slightly colder, between 0oC and 4oC.
Since Lake Huron is such a large lake, it can hold its summer heat well into winter, and rarely freezes over entirely. As dry arctic air masses blow across the large surface of the lake, the air is able to gain heat and moisture, fuelling snow squalls. With climate change predictions we can expect snowier winters, higher winds, and more frequent storms.
A number of fish and turtle species use our Great Lake’s coastal wetlands as overwintering grounds. In winter there is less food and oxygen available for Ontario’s fish due to a reduction in aquatic plant activity and availability. Ontario’s turtles hibernate in the bottom of water bodies, below the frost line where they will not freeze, conserving energy and oxygen stores. A turtle’s heart beats only once every 10 minutes in the winter.
In winter American Beach Grass (Marram Grass) goes through a period of dormancy. Many coastal plants enter a rest period at this time, and plant growth slows or halts completely. While the parts of the plant above ground turn brown and are no longer living, the roots are still alive, but less active. Even though the leaves of beach grasses may appear brown in the winter, these plants are still effective in trapping windblown sand and protecting the shoreline against winter storms.
Just because the fish have slowed down doesn't mean we have! When you donate to the Coastal Centre, you are helping us protect Lake Huron for the benefit of us all.