Extreme weather — flooding, drought, fires — are all over the nightly news, and it’s not uncommon for Saranac Lake to be mentioned in the winter, usually for being the coldest place in the nation. These extreme climate occurrences are having worldwide impacts on aspects of society, the economy, and natural ecosystems. While Upper Saranac Lake (USL) hasn’t been in the national news this summer we have seen a degree of intense, localized heavy rains.
Thankfully we are not experiencing the level of rain as seen in the southern U.S., but we are seeing more powerful heavy rain incidences. We know this because the Upper Saranac Foundation (USF) in collaboration with the Adirondack Watershed Institute (AWI) collects data for a better understanding of the lakes ecosystem and influences impacting USL.
Meteorological and water quality data is collected continuously by the semi-autonomous Environmental Monitoring Platform. Each year the platform is on the lake, the data it collects becomes more valuable, building a continuous, high-resolution, long-term database of the environmental condition of the lake. Real-time data on key weather and water quality information can be accessed on the Upper Saranac Foundation web page.
Located in the southern basin of USL, the platform is outfitted with sensors specifically designed to get a better understanding of the extent to which extreme weather events and climate change is impacting the watershed. The monitoring platform webpage provides nearly all the meteorological and water quality data the platform collects in several interactive ways. Users can update plots, adjust the time period for the data they want to view, and change measurement systems. The platform also has its own Twitter account — @USLPlatform — that it uses to tweet updates at 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily.
Intense rains can transport contaminants into the water, increase sedimentation, reduce clarity, and negatively impact water quality. Changing conditions can affect the lake’s biodiversity — the number and variety of plant and animal species in a particular location. These changes can favor the expansion of some highly adaptive invasive species, giving them an advantage over native species. These impacts are also known to contribute to an increase in algae blooms. USL is one of the most intensively studied lakes in the Adirondacks. The lake has been the subject of numerous scientific research projects, a 30-year water quality monitoring initiative, and an invasive plant management program that has served as a model for lakes around the world.