Environment

The Great Lakes, the world’s biggest freshwater system, are shrinking because of drought and rising temperatures, a trend that accelerated with this year’s almost snowless winter and scorching summer. Water levels have fallen to near-record lows on Lakes Michigan and Huron, while Erie, Ontario and Superior are below their historical averages. The decline is causing heavy economic losses, with cargo freighters forced to lighten their loads, marinas too shallow for pleasure boats and weeds sprouting on exposed bottomlands, chasing away swimmers and sunbathers.

Great Lakes Levels

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Victoria in Australia has sweltered on its hottest november day in more than a century, with the heatwave triggering numerous small grass fires in the state. Mildura recorded a high of 45.4ºC at 3.18pm (AEDT) on Thursday, taking it over the record of 45ºC set in the city in November 1905.

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Sea levels are rising 60 percent faster than U.N. projections, threatening low-lying areas from Miami to the Maldives, a study submitted during the U.N. talks in Qatar on combating climate change said on Wednesday.

The study said sea levels had been rising by 3.2 mm (0.1 inch) a year according to satellite data, which was 60 percent faster than the 2mm annual rise projected by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) over that period.

In the last century, seas rose by about 17 cm.

The latest best estimate for sea level rise was between 50 cm and a metre this century, possibly more if greenhouse gas emissions surged. Higher temperatures would melt more ice on land and expand the water in the oceans.

That would leave low-lying regions – from Pacific island states and Bangladesh to Tokyo and New York – facing a greater risk of storm surges, erosion and, in a worst case scenario, complete swamping by flood waters.

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