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Lake Superior

A little east of the middle of North America, Lake Superior (or gichigami in Ojibwe) retains the defining characteristics of a lake, but behaves like an inland sea. It has a small tide, busy international ports and 3-quadrillion gallons of water. That's:

  • 3,000,000,000,000,000 gallons (11.4-quadrillion liters)
  • Enough to submerge North and South America under 1 foot of fresh water
  • 10% of the world’s fresh surface water
  • Over half of the water contained in the Great Lakes

Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area and the third largest by volume. Scoured into its present form by the retreating glacial ice sheet covering the region during the last Ice Age (about 10,000 years ago), Superior’s cold waters are bounded by northern hardwood and conifer forests and buffeted by continental weather patterns. continued…

Featured Content

Interactive Map: Lake Superior's Extreme EventsInteractive Map: Lake Superior's Extreme Events
Explore the number and variety of weather-related extreme events in the Lake Superior Basin since 2010.
Physical Facts about Minnesota's Portion of Lake SuperiorPhysical Facts about Minnesota's Portion of Lake Superior
Minnesota encompasses 8% of Lake Superior's surface and 18% of its volume.
Readers Want to Know: Sometimes Lake Superior seems reddish-brown. Why?Readers Want to Know: Sometimes Lake Superior seems reddish-brown. Why?
The apparent color of water originates from a number of sources: onshore and off.
From Hot to ColdFrom Hot to Cold
With perfect timing, Large Lakes Observatory (LLO) researchers are giving the western arm of Lake Superior a comprehensive evaluation.
What Good is a DiatomWhat Good is a Diatom
These tiny particles have inspired everyone from Victorian microscopists to Lake Superior researchers. Read how diatoms are helping paint the picture of Lake Superior history today.
Lake Superior's Chemical Imbalance? Element Cycles and Ultra-oligotrophyLake Superior's Chemical Imbalance? Element Cycles and Ultra-oligotrophy
Learn about Lake Superior's unusual nitrate trend and why this ultra-cold Great Lake might not be oligotrophic.
Mix-up over Lake Superiorís MixingMix-up over Lake Superiorís Mixing
For years, Lake Superior was thought to be monomicticógoing through just one cycle of mixing or thermal stratification per year. Data in recent years is proving it to be dimictic (mixing through two annual cycles), though textbooks and websites are slow to catch up.

Featured Initiatives

Superior Facts: Facts About the Greatest Great Lake
Whether you visit Minnesota's North Shore or live there year-round, Lake Superior is a constant source of wonder.
Lake Superior's Natural Processes
The lake has a significant impact on patterns. There are also several interesting physical processes that take place in the lake.
Lake Superior's Physical Characteristics
Despite Lake Superior’s massive size, it only manages to support a limited amount of aquatic life.
Rip Currents: Escape the Grip of the Rip!
About rip currents on the Great Lakes and what you need to know to enjoy the beach safely
Winds Blew "Whale Burps" onto Superior's Shore
Winter winds whipping around Duluth and Lake Superior can produce more than snowdrifts. They can also produce "whale burps." Also known as surf balls, these oval or round bundles of fibrous material periodically show up on coastlines throughout the world.

See Also:

AudioLake Superior Audio
Collection of Lake Superior audio.
VideoLake Superior Videos
Collection of Lake Superior videos.
Making A Great Lake Superior
The conference drew over 440 attendees to Duluth, from over 70 towns and cities across the U.S. and Canada.

This page last modified on June 13, 2017     © 1996 – 2019 Regents of the University of Minnesota     The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.
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