Lake Winnipeg is the central element in the system of rivers that connect the northern Great Plains. Its watershed drains more than one million square kilometers between Lake Superior and the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies and collects runoff from four Canadian provinces and three American states.
(Scott St George) writes: "I just got the news that I've been awarded a Grant-in-Aid of Research, Artistry and Scholarship from the University of Minnesota's Office of the Vice President for Research.
Thanks to the award, our research group will travel to central Manitoba (Canada) to look for physical evidence of past changes in the level of Lake Winnipeg. Lake Winnipeg is the 10th-largest freshwater lake in the world and the rivers that flow into the lake supply water to more than 5.5 million people in Canada and the United States. Because Lake Winnipeg collects runoff from nearly the entire northern Plains, the amount of water in the lake is effectively a surrogate measure of the regional water budget.
In the mid-1990s, Dr. Erik Nielsen, a Quaternary Geologist with the Manitoba Geological Survey, discovered the presence of submerged tree stumps (rooted below the present lake level) at several spots around Lake Winnipeg. In a paper published in the Journal of Paleolimnology, Erik suggested that these stumps may be evidence that the water level of Lake Winnipeg was lower (by about 0.6 meters) around AD 1650, but he couldn't tell if the apparent rise in lake level over the past few centuries should be attributed to climatic factors (e.g., increased flow of water into the lake) or geological processes (mainly the gradual deformation of the lake basin caused by isostatic rebound).
We'll go back to the locations around that Erik visited, and search for more old trees that might be evidence of past hydrological change in Lake Winnipeg. Studying these natural ‘dipsticks’ will allow us to evaluate the impact of drought across the northern Plains and test how Lake Winnipeg is connected to other aspects of the global climate system. We're also optimistic that new insights into the natural history of the lake will be directly relevant to decisions about the use of water shared among three American states and four Canadian provinces."