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Lake Profile


General Information

Description Lake Superior is the fourth largest lake in the world by volume, exceeded only by the Caspian, Baikal and Tanganyika. Superior is the largest, deepest and coldest Laurentian Great Lake.

Although water quality has improved dramatically from the eutrophic conditions in the 1970's, and there is much greater regulation of point-source pollution, Lake Superior still faces significant challenges in tackling non-point source pollution, invasives, high concentrations of toxic chemicals and habitat alteration.

Climate change is also affecting the lake. Superior is one of the most rapidly warming lakes in the world. Measured evaporation rates are on the rise. The lake has lost 79% of its ice cover and lake levels have fluctuated below the long-term average since an extreme event weather event in 1997-98.

Country Canada
United States of America
Latitude 47° 50' 0" (47.8333)
Longitude -87° 0' 0" (-87.0000)
State Michigan
Lake Region Laurentian Great Lakes
River Basin Saint Lawrence


 Superior global index map (LakeNet Explorer)
 Largest Lakes in the World by Area (LakeNet Explorer 2004)
 Largest Lakes of the World by Volume (LakeNet Explorer 2004)
 Laurentian Great Lakes locator map
 Lake Basin Management Initiative (LakeNet Explorer)

Physical Characteristics

Description Superior's origins are glacial and tectonic.
Volume 12,100.00 km3
Surface Area 82,100.00 km2
Depth Mean depth: 147.0 m
Maximum depth: 406.0 m
Residence Time 191.0 years
Age 0 - 10,000 years before present
Origin Glacial
Type Fresh
Catchment Catchment size: 127,700.00 km2
Catchment/surface area ratio: 2:1


Economic Value Half of Canadian manufacturing and one-fifth of U.S. manufacturing are based on the Great Lakes freshwater coasts. The binational region accounts for about 60 percent of steel production in North America. Pulp and paper plants, high tech and chemical industries also rely on the Great Lakes for water or for transportation of their goods. (GLIN 2003)
Major Cities Duluth, Minnesota U.S.
Thunder Bay, Canada
Marquette, Michigan U.S.

Watershed Management

Watershed Action Plan Implementation underway
Other Issues Climate Change
Nutrient pollution
Health Advisories - Fish
Invasive Species
Polluted runoff
Point source pollution
Sediment contamination
Watershed habitat alteration
Specific Contaminants Industrial
Monitoring Programs In-Lake
Water Quality
Biological Resources and Habitats
Lake Use

Biodiversity Conservation

Description Plant and animal communities have been highly modified by human intervention, including the intentional and unintentional introduction of invasive species.
Designations LakeNet Biodiversity Priority
WWF Global 200
WWF Conservation Status Priority II
Species of Concern
Biological Distinctiveness Continentally outstanding


Council of Great Lakes Governors
Lake Superior Basin Project
Lake Superior Alliance
Lake Superior Water Trail of Minnesota
Save Lake Superior Association
Lake Superior Steelhead Association
Great Lakes Information Network
International Joint Commission
TEACH Great Lakes
Great Lakes Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species
Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum
Michigan Land Use Institute
Great Lakes United
Wisconsin Lake Partnerships
Wisconsin Association of Lakes
Great Lakes National Program Office
U.S. Geological Survey, Great Lakes Science Center
Michigan Sea Grant
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Lake Programs
Great Lakes Protection Fund
National Wildlife Federation, Lake Superior Project
Great Lakes Commission
International Association for Great Lakes Research
Lake Superior Binational Forum
Steering Committee of the Integrated Atmospheric Deposition Network
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service - Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
Alliance for the Great Lakes
Great Lakes Interagency Task Force
Healing Our Waters
Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

LakeNet Programs

World Lake Basin Management Initiative
Exchanges Among Environmental Specialists on 20 Lakes in the Former Soviet Union and in Eastern & Central Europe
LakeNet 2000: A Dialogue on Participatory Watershed Management
LBMI Regional Experience Sharing and Review Workshop for Europe, Central Asia & the Americas
U.S. NGO Delegation Visit to Japan, March 2003


Great Lakes (North American)  (PDF) Experience Brief. Final. MacDonagh-Dumler et al.. 2/27/2006.
LakeNet News, Winter 2003-2004 (PDF)  Newsletter. Final. English. 12/20/2003.
Managing Lake Basins for Sustainable Use - Lake Basin Management Initiative Final Report (PDF)  Project Report. Final. English. 2/27/2006.


2005 Invasive Species Education Program
A Methodology For Identifying and Classifying Aquatic Biodiversity Investment Areas: Application in the Great Lakes Basin
An electronic atlas of Great Lakes ice cover, winters 1973 - 2002
Bi-National Strategy for the Virtual Elimination of Persistent Toxic Substances in the Great Lakes Basin
Biodiversity Conservation of the World's Lakes: A Preliminary Framework for Identifying Priorities
Biodiversity of freshwater mussels in the lower Great Lakes drainage basin (1997)
Canada-US Great Lakes Binational Toxics Strategy
Crop Explorer - Global Reservoir and Lake Elevation Monitoring
Crop Explorer - Lake Level Variations from TOPEX/POSEIDON and Jason-1 Altimetry for Lake Superior
GEMStat - Global Water Quality Data and Statistics
GLNPO: Lake Superior Web Page (includes links to Management Plans)
Great Lakes Basin Water Management Initiative: Sustainable Water Resources Agreement
Great Lakes Monitoring Programs
Great Lakes Strategy 2002: A Plan for the New Millennium
Human Dimensions of Great Lakes Fisheries Management
ILEC Database
Introduction to Great Lakes traditional culture
Lake Superior Lakewide Management Plan - LaMP
Large-Scale Ecosystem Restoration: Lessons for Existing and Emerging Initiatives
Marsh Monitoring Program
Michigan Sea Grant: Publications Catalogue
Priority Areas for Conservation of Aquatic Biodiversity in the Western Great Lakes Basin
Superior Advisory Number 229
The Conservation of Biological Diversity in the Great Lakes Basin: Issues & Opportunities
Wisconsin's Aquatic Sciences Center


4/12/2013 - New Concerns About Plastic Pollution in Great Lakes ‘Garbage Patch’
1/10/2013 - New Great Lakes Map Highlights Environmental Threats and Opportunities
1/4/2013 - Lakes Michigan and Huron Fall to Record Low Levels
12/17/2012 - Environmental Threat Map Highlights Great Lakes Restoration Challenges
11/20/2012 - Warming Lakes: Climate Change and Variability Drive Low Water Levels on the Great Lakes
10/17/2012 - Great Lakes levels near all-time low
7/30/2012 - Lake Superior Heating up in 2012
7/13/2012 - New risk assessment validates threat from Asian carp and points to Chicago-area waterways as most likely pathway into the Great Lakes
7/13/2012 - US and Canada: Report says Asian carp could thrive in Great Lakes
3/10/2012 - Great Lakes ice coverage falls 71 percent over 40 years, researcher says
1/1/2012 - Great Lakes: Closing off the Carp
12/8/2011 - Climate Change and other Threats to the World's Goliaths
2/25/2010 - Great goals for the Great Lakes
1/14/2009 - Great Lakes Water Levels Sensitive To Climate Change
8/16/2007 - Biggest Great Lake Seen Heading For Record Lows (Canada, US)
3/19/2007 - Canada to clean up polluted spots on Great Lakes
2/5/2007 - Data shows warming eventually will shrink Great Lakes
8/4/2006 - Michigan Island Steeps in Sewage Dispute
8/4/2006 - Great Lakes Forever, Budweiser, and Anheuser-Busch Wholesalers Coast Into Partnership to Protect the Great Lakes
5/8/2006 - Group reviewing dated Great Lakes treaty
5/1/2006 - New Zealand Mudsnails Found in Duluth-Superior Harbor
12/21/2005 - Watershed Council hails recent Great Lakes initiatives; question funding commitment
12/14/2005 - 2 pacts prohibit diversion of Great Lakes water
9/13/2005 - Dozens of songbirds found dead in Lake Superior
4/20/2005 - Invasive species in most Great Lakes ships
4/18/2005 - In a Pickle: The Mystery of the North Shore's Salty Well Water (Lake Superior)
4/7/2005 - Disappearing Lakes, Shrinking Seas
1/18/2005 - Immediate action sought to protect Great Lakes from invaders
12/17/2004 - Environmental groups file brief in Great Lakes beach case
10/22/2004 - Parliamentary committee to study Great Lakes deal
9/17/2004 - Great Lakes Plagued By Pollution
8/25/2004 - Pollutants linger in lakes, EPA report says
7/19/2004 - Great Lakes speak out on invasive species
7/16/2004 - New Great Lakes rules expected on Monday
6/17/2004 - Lack of Public Outcry Abour Aquatic Invasive Introduction into the Great Lakes Frustrates Conservation Organization
5/23/2004 - Great Lakes conservation efforts taking a dive with politics
5/19/2004 - Federal task force to lead Great Lakes clean-up
5/13/2004 - Corps of Engineers vs. carp: The fight for the Great Lakes
5/6/2004 - Gulls reflect change in Great Lakes pollutants
4/23/2004 - Towards a Lake Basin Management Initiative
4/8/2004 - Native cormorants? Not in Great Lakes
3/13/2004 - Cox shouldn't ignore issue of tainted ship water
2/10/2004 - Time for Immediate Action to Protect the Great Lakes from Invasion
1/29/2004 - Bush administration proposes major new funding for Great Lakes clean-up
1/27/2004 - Leading Great Lakes Citizen's Groups call on Bush Administration to halt changes to sewage pathogen policy
1/19/2004 - Biologists help prehistoric fish make a comeback
12/1/2003 - From Lake Superior to a caviar spoon
11/8/2003 - Study: dioxins may have wiped out Laurentian Great Lakes trout
7/20/2003 - Lake Superior north shore said under threat from U.S. road-building company
6/9/2003 - Commercial use of aquifers could strain Great Lakes
5/16/2003 - A snail from New Zealand that reproduces itself by cloning found in Lake Superior
5/15/2003 - Five dozen scientists call invasive species the most urgent environmental threat to the Great Lakes & Mississippi River Basin: Barriers urged for area rivers
4/30/2003 - Toxic algae threatens Great Lakes; U.S. funding is sought to combat outbreaks
3/16/2003 - Michigan worried thirsty states may be eyeing Great Lakes
2/27/2003 - New food chain threat musseling into Laurentian Great Lakes
2/11/2003 - Organism is disappearing from Great Lakes
2/1/2003 - Saving Canada's endangered mussels
12/15/2002 - Lake Superior's deep-water donut mystery
12/9/2002 - New report on urban nonpoint source pollution released for Great Lakes policymakers
10/21/2002 - Tests find drug taint in water
10/19/2002 - Alien species named lakes' top enemy
9/19/2002 - Invasive perch nearing Lake Winnebago
7/21/2002 - Scientists recommend a fresh look at fresh water
7/12/2002 - Experts say big Asian carp threatens Great Lakes
5/6/2002 - Mapping underground water supplies
2/24/2002 - A sight to see: ice caves on Lake Superior islands
10/7/2001 - Researchers track hormone-disrupted fish
9/11/2001 - Looking for lampreys
8/4/2000 - Scientists try shock treatment for invaders (US, Canada)
11/9/1999 - Toxic mud fouls U.S. waters
2/17/1998 - In search of bad weather: scientists study lake-effect winter storms

Additional Data Sources

Birkett, C., and I. Mason. 1995. A new global lakes database for remote sensing programme studying climatically sensitive large lakes. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 21 (3) 307-318.
Duker, L. and L. Borre. 2001. Biodiversity conservation of the world's lakes: a preliminary framework for identifying priorities. LakeNet Report Series Number 2. Annapolis, Maryland USA.
International Lake Environment Committee, the United Nations Environment Program and Environment Agency, Government of Japan. 1997. World Lakes Database.
US EPA (2004) National Listing of Fish Advisories Database

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