Lake Osakis was used by the state DNR to highlight the impact of climate change in the region in a recent press release. Data from the State Climatology Office indicate Minnesota’s temperatures are increasing – especially in winter – and large, more frequent extreme precipitation events are occurring. Minnesota has warmed 2.9 degrees F between 1895 and 2017, while receiving an average of 3.4 inches more precipitation annually.
The DNR said lake ice seasons have shortened over the decades, and Osakis – which it described as “an average-sized lake in central Minnesota” –has “ice out” more than a week earlier now than it did in the 1940s. Early ice-out dates negatively affect a variety of winter recreation opportunities, the DNR stated, such as ice fishing and cross-country skiing.
The DNR also noted that with longer growing seasons, some 535,000 acres of tamarack forests have been affected by Eastern larch beetle, an insect that Minnesota’s historically colder winters kept in check. In addition, the warmer winters and increased precipitation have allowed rough fish to gain a foothold in waters that provide important duck habitat. Rough fish degrade water quality, reducing the food available to migrating ducks.