Standing Seiche on Lake Michigan

October 28th, 2010 at 12:30 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

Thanks to Cort S. for finding this (click on link).    If only we could harness the power of the wind!  This is a data plot from Port Inland at the north end of Lake Michigan, east of Manistique.  It shows the water level of Lake Michigan at that location.  With this deep storm, we had strong SSW winds on Lake Michigan.  This wind pushed the water up toward the north end of the lake.   Note that the water level here rose about 20″!!  The wind was so strong it pushed the water toward the north end of the lake with enough force to cause what we call a standing seiche (French word pronounced as a long “a”).  I didn’t check it, but the water level probably dropped 10-20″ down toward Chicago.  I’m sure this created a pretty fierce current of water moving out of Lake Michigan at the Mackinac Bridge (which by the way had wind gusts of 78 mph!) into Lake Huron.  When a seiche occurs,  rivers that empty into Lake Michigan can actually flow backwards if the water level of the lake goes up 20″!  You can click on this graph to enlarge, but do click on the link, where you can see graphs of air pressure, temperature, and wind speed (look at how long the wind hung at about 40 knots (I knot is 1.15 mph) or better during the storm.  Wouldn’t this have been nasty if it was winter and cold enough for snow!

14 Responses to “Standing Seiche on Lake Michigan”

  1. Yup (Grandville) says:

    Not surprised at all, that was some pretty constant heavy wind on the lake!

  2. It has been a wild couple of days here at the top of Lake Michigan. I can still hear the roar of Lake Michigan this morning, but it is much toned down and no longer sounds like a truck running over our house.

  3. Bruce south haven says:

    Had to readjust the lines on my boat yesterday as the water level in the harbor really dropped.

  4. Chad P. says:

    My boys & I were at the lake Tuesday & Wednesday in Grand Haven. You could watch large waves run up the lake on the horizon. Some appeared to travel for a half mile or longer. The other amazing sight was the waves between the pier heads – due to the reflection of the waves, there were some swells that were easily 20 feet high!

  5. Chad P. says:

    By the way, I looked at the data for Calumet Harbor, IL and you were right. It’s showing 15-20 inches lower than average.

    http://glakesonline.nos.noaa.gov/plotcomp.shtml?station_info=9087044+Calumet+Harbor,+IL+&flag=0

  6. Island Guy says:

    Remarkable information!!

  7. Constance Witzel says:

    Does anybody remember the Lake Michigan seiche near Chicago?

  8. G.R.Pilot says:

    “If we could only harness the power of the wind”.

    You do realize we do have that technology right Bill? It’s too bad there are so many stubborn people against putting windmills in Lake Michigan. They could placed far enough out where they would be barely visable from shore. Just imagine the amount of clean energy that cold have been produced the last couple of days.

    1. Monte says:

      You are absolutely right Pilot, but the transmission infrastructure is not there to support and store the energy. I met a guy here in Iowa that is working on a way to turn excess wind energy into ammonia. Instead of just grounding out the energy when it’s not needed, creating something useful with it. I think we need to build the infrastructure now instead of continuing to rely on oil that will eventually be depleted.

  9. Buckda says:

    Which one Constance? They happen almost every week. Seriously. But they’re usually just a few inches and no one notices.

    1. Constance Witzel says:

      1954. I remember living near the Beach. It was the largest seiche on record, some areas had several feet of water over usual heights.

  10. Cort S. (Mt Pleasant) says:

    I remember a thunderstorm-generated seiche which closed down Chicago beaches on July 2, 2008. Four small lines of thunderstorms moved over different parts of Lake Michigan during the afternoon, and two of them gave Ottawa County and Grand Rapids a fair wallop.

    1. Constance Witzel says:

      I was living near Rainbow Beach at South Shore Dr in 1954. Per Parade.com/marilynvossavant, it is the largest seiche on record in the US with a wall of water that reached as high as 9ft against 25 miles of the Lake Michigan shoreline

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