Great Lakes Water LevelsJuly 11th, 2013 at 9:02 pm by Bill Steffen under Bill's Blog, News, Weather
Lake Michigan sunset from Jack Martin. Click the pic. or click here to enlarge. Great Lakes water levels continue their upward climb. Lake Michigan/Huron is up 3″ in the last month and is now up 3″ higher than it was one year ago. The lake is still 18″ below the century average, but it’s 13″ above the lowest July level reached in 1964. Lake Superior is up 4″ in the last month and is now 2″ above the level of one year ago. Superior is 6″ below the century average, but 15″ above the lowest July level in 1926. Lake Erie is up 5″ in the last month and up 7″ in the past year. Erie is one inch ABOVE the century average. Lake Ontario is up 3″ in the past month and is up a whopping 14″ in the last year. Ontario is now 7″ ABOVE the long-term average. Lake St. Clair is up 5″ in the past month, up 6″ in the last year and is 2″ below the long-term average.
Now, permit me to make a comment about discernment. Go here and read this article. The article was published July 9, 2013, just a couple days ago. The article is entitled “Great Lakes Water Levels Hit Record Lows”. The article goes on to say: “According to recent reports from hydrologists and shipping companies, the Great Lakes are experiencing record low water levels that have persisted since January.” and it says: “Even more frightening is what the water levels suggest about the impact of climate change on our region.”
Reread my first paragraph, where I have current Great Lakes Water Levels, taken (as any reporter could do instantly from the web) from the Army Corps of Engineers Weekly Bulletin here. Note that both Lake Ontario and Lake Erie are now ABOVE the long-term average level. The writer of the WMEAC article does not give any figures, only referring to “reports” from unnamed “hydrologists” and “shipping companies”. I would hope that any hydrologist cited as an expert on Great Lakes Water Levels would be up-to-date on the latest level data. Perhaps these are not so recent “reports”. One lake (for lake level purposes), Lake Michigan/Huron set a low record level for the date from late December to early February. Since then, the lake has seen a remarkable increase in water level. On Jan. 1, 2013, Lake Michigan/Huron was 18″ BELOW Chart Datum. Today, Lake Michigan/Huron is 3″ ABOVE Chart Datum and 13″ higher than it was in July 1964. The other Great Lakes have NOT set record levels recently (Lake Superior tied their lowest level briefly this winter, but that lake has also made a remarkable recovery and is now only 6″ below the average level). Check out the long-term graph of the water level of Lake Michigan/Huron, keeping in mind that we are now 13″ higher than 1964. The lake level has gone up and down (highest level in 1986) and bears no correlation to the graph of the increase in CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere.
This article is not unique. This story has recently been on the major TV networks (this NBC report is from June 18th. Brian Williams says “The Great Lakes are low and getting lower” – Getting Lower??? In recent months they’ve been getting higher! Anne Thompson is on a ship in Lake Erie, where the water level is ABOVE AVERAGE. The ship captain cites the St. Mary’s River, which drains water from Lake Superior, but Lake Superior has had it’s 2nd greatest spring rise in lake level in the last 95 years!) and in the NY Times (note the article is from June – but the picture is older – no leaves on the trees).
The WMEAC article and the others make no mention of dredging of the St. Clair River being a factor in lower the water level of Lake Michigan/Huron. Read this article (from the Milwaukee Journal) and this article from Weather Underground. The Milwaukee Journal article says: “The St. Clair has been heavily dredged for over a century, and the federal government has long acknowledged that this human meddling in the riverbed has led to a permanent drop of about 16 inches from Michigan and Huron’s long-term average.” “Alarmed by the fact that even the lakes’ peak levels had been below that average line for several years, a Canadian conservation group created by property owners from northern Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay hired its own engineering firm to conduct a study of what was going on in the St. Clair River back in 2004. That study said the water lost from the lakes by expanding the river channel was actually much greater than 16 inches – and getting worse.” The Weather Underground article says: “…studies have shown that Huron and Michigan fell by 10 to 16 inches because of dredging over the years to deepen the navigational channel in the St. Clair River, most recently in the 1960s.” So, if Lake Michigan/Huron is 18″ below the century average, then dredging could account for the vast majority of that decrease (Note that the downstream lakes – Erie and Ontario – are ABOVE average level.
Again, the last line of the WMEAC article is “Even more frightening is what the water levels suggest about the impact of climate change on our region.” Looking at the data, the long-term hydrographs and the dredging factor, both the objective scientist and the casual observer would have to question the “frightening” role of climate change in Great Lakes water levels.