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Interactive Map: Lake Superior's Extreme Events

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Legend: Lake Superior's Extreme Events

About

This interactive map shows weather-related extreme events in the Lake Superior Basin since 2010. To learn more about an event, click the icon for more information. If you crave more details, selected events include a "more info" link, which will take you to an external story.

A larger version of the map is available at ArcGIS.com and includes a time slider at the bottom that displays what happened in a particular year or years.


Questions and Answers

  1. Why did you make this map?
  2. What am I supposed to learn from the map?
  3. Why are wildfires included?
  4. What is this map not good for?
  5. How did you make the map?
  6. Who funded the project?
  7. If I have comments or questions about the map, who should I contact?

1. Why did you make this map?

Minnesota Sea Grant made this map because weather, especially extreme weather, can have costly and memorable impacts on communities and individuals. From brutal cold to torrential rain, the Lake Superior region has been hit by many meteorological anomalies and this map serves as a reminder and resource regarding those extreme events.

2. What am I supposed to learn from the map?

The map is an overview of the Lake Superior basin and a selection of extreme weather events that have occurred within it since 2010. It does not cover the 1905 Mataafa Blow or the gale that took down the SS Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975. However, it does shows a suite of unusual weather that has relatively recently made a mark on the basin, including tornadoes, wind, hail, rain, snow, extreme cold, one huge wave and wildfires.

3. Why are wildfires included?

Although wildfires are not meteorological events, they are included because the likelihood and extent of wildfires can be influenced by climatic factors and wildfires tend to be highly visible and damaging.

4. What is this map not good for?

This map is not good for:

  • Attributing an extreme event to climate change. Increasingly frequent and increasingly severe extreme events are consistent with what climate scientists expect as Earth warms. However, scientists need resources and time to study a particular event before they can comment on how it was different because of Earth's changing climate. Additionally, this map only covers events since 2010 and therefore has limited historic context.
  • Determining where extreme events will happen in the future. Reports tend to come from populated areas. Just because an area has fewer icons on it, doesn't mean it is safer!
  • Identifying areas prone to extreme events. Because more reports come from populated areas, the western arm of Lake Superior looks like a hotbed of weather weirdness; remember that looks can be deceiving.

5. How did you make the map?

Minnesota Sea Grant sought input and data from staff with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service, Environment Canada and the Midwestern Regional Climate Center. Minnesota Sea Grant particularly thanks the staff of the Geospatial Analysis Center, University of Minnesota Duluth, for their assistance in constructing the map in ArcGIS.

The event data came from these sources:

  • Quarterly Climate Impact Reports for Great Lakes Region, compiled by Midwestern Regional Climate Center using input from 17 partners since June 2013
  • Monthly Ontario Weather Review, compiled by Environment Canada
  • NOAA Storm Events Database containing ...
    - The occurrence of storms and other "significant weather phenomena" having sufficient intensity to cause loss of life, injuries, significant property damage and/or disruption to commerce.
    - Rare or unusual weather phenomena that generate media attention.
    - Other meteorological milestone events, such as record maximum or minimum temperatures or precipitation rates that occur in connection with another event.

With respect to the NOAA Storm Events Database, Minnesota Sea Grant staff pared down the national dataset to latitude and longitude ranges covering the Lake Superior basin, which included about 1500 records. The storm data also contained event narratives, which were used to help determine which blizzards and floods to include on the map. Wind, hail and tornado data was narrowed to the upper 5% percentile for each event type.

  • Retained wind events ≥ 80 mph
  • Retained hail when ≥ 2" (hen egg and larger)
  • Retained tornados ≥ 2 on Enhanced Fujita Scale

6. Who funded the project?

This project was made possible by the NOAA Sea Grant College Program and a University of Minnesota Duluth Research and Scholarship Grant.

7. If I have comments or questions about the map, who should I contact?

Please direct comments and questions about the map to Dee Angradi, sangradi@umn.edu, (218) 726-6209.


This page last modified on February 03, 2017     © 1996 – 2017 Regents of the University of Minnesota     The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.
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