Lake Michigan and Lake Huron hit all-time low water levels

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:00 PM GMT on February 06, 2013

Share this Blog
42
+

During January 2013, water levels on Lake Michigan and Lake Huron fell to their all-time lowest values since record keeping began in 1918, said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday. The two lakes (which are connected and are hydrologically the same lake) fell to a water level of 576.02'. This is 0.4" below the previous record low of 576.05' set in March 1964. The lakes have dropped 17 inches since January 2012, and are now 29 inches below their long-term average. Lake Superior is about 9" above its all-time low water level, and Lakes Erie and Ontario are just 6" below average (26 - 27" above their all-time lows), so these lakes will not set new low water records in 2013. The latest forecast calls for Lake Superior to drop 2 inches during February, Lake Michigan and Huron to drop 1 inch, Lake Erie to rise 2 inches, and Lake Ontario remain near its current level.


Figure 1. Low water levels at Old Mission Point Lighthouse at Grand Traverse Bay, Lake Michigan, during July 2000. Image credit: NOAA/GLERL.


Why the record lows?
The record-low water levels on Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are due, in part, to dredging operations in their outflow channel, the St. Clair River. The dredging, which stopped in the 1960s, is blamed for a long-term 10 - 16" decrease in water levels. The record low water levels on Lake Michigan and Lake Huron in January occurred despite the fact that precipitation over their watershed was 61% above average during the month. However, precipitation over the past 12 months was only 91% of average, and runoff into the lakes depends upon precipitation over longer than a 1-month period. Furthermore, evaporation over these lakes was much higher than average during January, making the net water supplied to the lakes (runoff into the lakes, plus precipitation over the lakes, minus evaporation from the lakes) only 63% of average. What caused the increased evaporation? Well, very warm water temperatures, for one. According to NOAA's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL), water temperatures over Lake Michigan are currently about 2.5°F above average, and are about 1°F above average over Lake Huron. These warm water temperatures are the lingering effects of the extraordinary warmth of 2012, which was the warmest year on record over much of the Great Lakes region. Also increasing the evaporation from the lakes during January was the presence of less ice cover than average, which exposed more open water to the air.


Figure 2. The water level on Lake Huron and Lake Michigan measured during 2012 - 2013 (red line) hit an all-time low during January 2013, beating the previous record set in March 1964. The predicted water levels for February - March call for record lows both months. Image credit: Army Corps of Engineers.

Ice cover declining, water temperatures warming, and precipitation increasing in recent decades
The long-term future of Great Lakes water levels is cloudy, since climate change is expected to bring competing effects. A 2011 paper by scientists at NOAA Great Lakes Environemental Research Laboratory found that lake levels could rise or fall, depending upon the climate change scenario used. On the one hand, precipitation has increased by 12% over Michigan during the past century, and is expected to increase even more in the coming decades. This would tend to increase lake levels. However, lake water temperatures are predicted to increase and ice cover decrease, which would heighten evaporation rates. This would tend to lower lake levels. Ice cover on North America's Great Lakes--Superior, Michigan, Huron, Ontario, and Erie--has declined 71% since 1973, according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Climate by researchers at NOAA's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. The loss of ice is due to warming of the lake waters, which could be due to a combination of global warming and natural cycles, the researchers said. Winter air temperatures over the lower Great Lakes increased by about 2.7°F (1.5°C) from 1973 - 2010, and by 4 - 5°F (2.3 - 2.7°C) over the northern Lakes, including Lake Superior. Lake Superior's summer surface water temperature warmed 4.5°F (2.5°C) over the period 1979 - 2006 (Austin and Colman 2007). During the same period, Lake Michigan warmed by about 3.3°F (1.7°C), Lake Huron by 4.3°F (2.4°C), and Lake Erie (which is shallow and loses and gains heat relatively quickly) showed almost no warming. The Army Corps of Engineers is also considering adding speed bumps to the bottom of the St. Clair River to slow down drainage of Lake Huron, which would act to increase water levels in Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.


Figure 3. Average yearly precipitation over the state of Michigan increased by about 12% per century since 1895, according to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center.

References
Austin, J. A., and S. Colman, 2007, "Lake Superior summer water temperatures are increasing more rapidly than regional air temperatures: A positive ice-albedo feedback," Geophys. Res. Lett., 34, L06604, doi:10.1029/2006GL029021.

Wang, J., X. Bai, H. Hu, A.H. Clites, M.C. Colton, and B.M. Lofgren, 2012, "Temporal and spatial variability of Great Lakes ice cover, 1973-2010," Journal of Climate 25(4):1318-1329 (DOI:10.1175/2011JCLI4066.1)

Jeff Masters

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 183 - 133

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15Blog Index

GFS at 48 hours...
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36847
Nam at 48 hours..........
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36847
Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36847
Quoting Bluestorm5:
lolwut? 86.5 inches of snow?

EDIT: That might be in centimeters.


maybe but the nam had a band of 48"+ and large areas of 36" plus.

if its centimeters that only shows 33inches so I dont think that's right.
The NAM just went crazy.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting geepy86:

rat spit.......ewwwwwwwwwwww
Quoting geepy86:

rat spit.......ewwwwwwwwwwww
..yep im with you on that one
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36847
Quoting LargoFl:
off topic but the scientific journal has an interesting article on tooth decay..seems its a fairly Modern malady that didnt exist until we started eating grains..neanderals didnt have tooth decay,they were strictly meat eaters..when we switched to eating grains..tooth decay came along with it, the journal says it may come from rats saliva in the grain fields..ugh

rat spit.......ewwwwwwwwwwww
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
LOL!!!
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:
Possible storm tracks for Winter Storm Nemo. :)

Member Since: May 23, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 4387
Quoting PedleyCA:


Good Morning Sensei....


Good Morning, Grasshopper.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Joe Bastardi ‏@BigJoeBastardi
You know there is big trouble in the weather if you look at models and it looks like (you) drew them


Yeah that's true, Lol. If some of my model prediction wishes came true......we'd have a problem.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting nymore:
During the course of the year, CPC introduced an ONI dataset using different base periods for determining anomalies for each year, with the most recent years (1995 to date) utilizing the 1981%u20132010 base period.

Neapolitan: What year would it have been. I'm guessing course of the year means 2012, to be exact they posted changes to the index on March 2, 2012. When did the report come out, 2013. Which is exactly why I said they did not do their homework and got caught.

Your words:
You're certainly free to express such opinions no matter how dreadfully incorrect they are. Ain't America great? ;-)

Who is incorrect again?
I'm sorry you don't understand. Allow me to try one more time:

Three weeks ago--on January 15--NOAA stated in its annual global climate report that 2012 was the 10th warmest year on record. (Dr. Masters wrote about it here.). NOAA also stated that 2012 was the warmest La Nina year on record. The list of La Nina years used as a basis for that statement was from the CPC's ONI dataset, which used a 1971-2000 base period.

With me so far? Good.

Now, during the course of the year (2012), the CPC introduced a different ONI dataset using different base periods, with the most recent years in the dataset using the 1981-2010 base period. They did this because the most recent base period--1981-2010, as opposed to 1971-2000--allowed scientists to better determine whether to classify any particular year as a La Nina.

Still with me? Almost done.

With the introduction of the new dataset using the 1981-2010 base period, 2006 and 2009 were reclassified as La Nina years, where previously they'd been considered neutral. Since both those years were slightly warmer than 2012, they moved into first and second place, and knocked 2012 down to third. And the NOAA just this week revised the January 15 report to reflect these changes.

So, again: nothing evil, nothing manipulative; no lies, no deceit, no trickery. No one was "caught". This is yet another example of scientists doing their job by constantly reviewing their observations, and making corrections when warranted.

Not that I expect any fossil fuel devotees to understand... ;-)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
off topic but the scientific journal has an interesting article on tooth decay..seems its a fairly Modern malady that didnt exist until we started eating grains..neanderals didnt have tooth decay,they were strictly meat eaters..when we switched to eating grains..tooth decay came along with it, the journal says it may come from rats saliva in the grain fields..ugh..............Link
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36847
Quoting NEwxguy:


I suspect thats meters not inches.


DOOM
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting NEwxguy:


I suspect thats meters not inches.



uhhh... I'd hope not.... is this another ice age?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting stormchaser43:
I continually am fascinated with those that buy into the Global Warming theory when the Northeast is having what seems to be a normal winter. The Northeast has been getting big snowstorms since official record keeping began. I love how those continuing to find anything to support their agenda will use a potential blizzard for Massechusetts as more evidence that the Globe is changing. Right. Like the Northeast has never had enormous blizzards before. The farmers almanac, history, archives, etc. prove large snowstorms have been occurring there since well before 1600 AD. They have been occurring there even before that.

It's simple. The Lords of AGW will use any and every single weather event (big or small) as proof the globe is warming, when in fact it is not entirely true humans are even having an impact on it.
I think i read somewhere..the whole global temp hasnt warmed up to 1 degree yet..i could be wrong but scientists are saying..climate and local weather(storms) are two seperate things and should'nt be mixed....when i see temps in the 120's here in florida on a consistant basis..then maybe i'll believe in global warming lol...then we start to worry
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36847
winterstorm Nemo,can we request a change of names??
If Im going to be buried in snow,I don't want to get buried by a fish.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting LargoFl:
yes they need the water badly up there..looks like snowfall has been good up there so far this winter, we still have a month or more,maybe two for snowfall..we'll see how it goes


T-42DAYS TILL SPRING

SPRING BEGINS 702AM EDT MARCH 20 2013
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
Quoting stormchaser43:
I continually am fascinated with those that buy into the Global Warming theory when the Northeast is having what seems to be a normal winter. The Northeast has been getting big snowstorms since official record keeping began. I love how those continuing to find anything to support their agenda will use a potential blizzard for Massechusetts as more evidence that the Globe is changing. Right. Like the Northeast has never had enormous blizzards before. The farmers almanac, history, archives, etc. prove large snowstorms have been occurring there since well before 1600 AD. They have been occurring there even before that.

It's simple. The Lords of AGW will use any and every single weather event (big or small) as proof the globe is warming, when in fact it is not entirely true humans are even having an impact on it.


It's simple. The Lords of anti-AGW will use any and every single weather event (big or small) as proof the globe is not warming, when in fact it may be entirely true humans are having an impact on it

In other words both sides spin every event both ways.
So just give it up.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Good Morning Sensei....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
There is something fishy about this storm.... :)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Possible storm tracks for Winter Storm Nemo. :)

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting NEwxguy:


So rather than shoveling Sunday morning ,I'll be tunneling.
..LOL..snow forts and snowball fights..yessssss
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36847
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:
LOL NAM:


I suspect thats meters not inches.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:
LOL NAM:
it seems the weather has returned like back when i was a child..back then 2-3 foot snowstorms happened often or at least once or twice a winter..we used to build snow forts right in the streets of manhattan...then hmmm maybe the 60's..the weather changed..snowfall became less and less till now..an 8 inch snowfall today is a Big Deal....
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36847
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:
LOL NAM:


So rather than shoveling Sunday morning ,I'll be tunneling.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:
LOL NAM:
lolwut? 86.5 inches of snow?

EDIT: That might be in centimeters.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
During the course of the year, CPC introduced an ONI dataset using different base periods for determining anomalies for each year, with the most recent years (1995 to date) utilizing the 1981-2010 base period.

Neapolitan: What year would it have been. I'm guessing course of the year means 2012, to be exact they posted changes to the index on March 2, 2012. When did the report come out, 2013. Which is exactly why I said they did not do their homework and got caught.

Your words:
You're certainly free to express such opinions no matter how dreadfully incorrect they are. Ain't America great? ;-)

Who is dreadfully incorrect again?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
152. VR46L
Quoting LargoFl:
..guys the USGS confirms it............Link


Thanks Largo !
Member Since: March 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6820
LOL NAM:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting VR46L:


Yeah , I know !! I try to be careful with my Information when posting LOL
..guys the USGS confirms it............Link
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36847
149. VR46L
Quoting Neapolitan:
Snow


So you run a church ?

I didn't realize you were a Pastor or Reverend ...
Member Since: March 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6820
Quoting Neapolitan:
Snow


Is that real or did you create that?
Lol...if it's real it's a nice coincidence.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
147. VR46L
Quoting PedleyCA:


Thanks, I didn't find that in my search. It is sometimes a good idea to try to verify stuff you hear on the News, as the bunch here will rip you a new one if you post something that is False, lol....


Yeah , I know !! I try to be careful with my Information when posting LOL
Member Since: March 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6820
Quoting stormchaser43:
What a snow event. 36 inches as predicted by the NAM. If this really does come true, I think it is safe to say we can all throw out the climate change goofiness. Okay, the hardcore will still be relentlessly clinging on to AGWT, but realistically it's probably safe to say that Global Warming / Climate Change is a theory that has not ever come true.
Snow
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Ryan Maue‏@RyanMaue

NCEP 4-km WRF figured out Lake Erie was froze over. Lake Ontario continues the lake-effect snow machine big time. http://twitter.com/RyanMaue/status/299204938788134 912/photo/1
Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting PedleyCA:


Thanks, I didn't find that in my search. It is sometimes a good idea to try to verify stuff you hear on the News, as the bunch here will rip you a new one if you post something that is False, lol....
Quoting PedleyCA:


Thanks, I didn't find that in my search. It is sometimes a good idea to try to verify stuff you hear on the News, as the bunch here will rip you a new one if you post something that is False, lol....
well its on fox news and cnn..5 deaths they are reporting
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36847
Quoting FtMyersgal:


And hopefully it will releave some of the drought the Wisconsin has experienced the last couple of years.
yes they need the water badly up there..looks like snowfall has been good up there so far this winter, we still have a month or more,maybe two for snowfall..we'll see how it goes
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36847
Quoting VR46L:


Yeah the wiki link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solomon_Islands Has it at nearly 1000 Islands but I imagine ,many are tiny and uninhabited . But Wiki is not always the most trustworthy source anyone can post an entry . But that is my opinion.


Thanks, I didn't find that in my search. It is sometimes a good idea to try to verify stuff you hear on the News, as the bunch here will rip you a new one if you post something that is False, lol....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
NAM went absolutely insane with snow totals. Over 6 feet in Massachussetts.


Ok,Im expecting a lot of snow up here,butsome of these models have to get control of themselves.What the heck are they feeding these models?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
URGENT - WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TAUNTON MA
1130 AM EST WED FEB 6 2013

...A MAJOR WINTER STORM WILL BRING THE POTENTIAL FOR A FOOT OR
MORE OF SNOW ACROSS MUCH OF THE REGION FRIDAY INTO EARLY
SATURDAY AND TRAVEL MAY BECOME NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE...

CTZ002>004-070030-
/O.EXA.KBOX.WS.A.0002.130208T0600Z-130209T1200Z/
HARTFORD CT-TOLLAND CT-WINDHAM CT-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF...HARTFORD...WINDSOR LOCKS...UNION...
VERNON...PUTNAM...WILLIMANTIC
1130 AM EST WED FEB 6 2013

...WINTER STORM WATCH IN EFFECT FROM LATE THURSDAY NIGHT THROUGH
SATURDAY MORNING...

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN TAUNTON HAS ISSUED A WINTER STORM
WATCH...WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM LATE THURSDAY NIGHT THROUGH
SATURDAY MORNING.

* LOCATIONS...NORTHERN CONNECTICUT.

* HAZARD TYPES...HEAVY SNOW.

* ACCUMULATIONS...HIGH CONFIDENCE OF 6 INCHES OR MORE OF SNOW. THE
POTENTIAL EXISTS FOR A FOOT OR MORE OF SNOW IN SOME LOCATIONS.

* TIMING...LIGHT SNOW MAY HAVE DEVELOPED BY FRIDAY MORNING. THE
SNOW WILL BECOME HEAVY DURING FRIDAY AFTERNOON AND ESPECIALLY
FRIDAY NIGHT. THE SNOW SHOULD TAPER OFF ACROSS THE REGION
SATURDAY MORNING.

* IMPACTS...DEEP SNOW ACCUMULATIONS ARE LIKELY ON UNTREATED ROADS.
GUSTY WINDS MAY RESULT IN CONSIDERABLE BLOWING AND DRIFTING
SNOW LATER FRIDAY INTO EARLY SATURDAY. TRAVEL MAY BECOME NEARLY
IMPOSSIBLE FRIDAY NIGHT.

* WINDS...NORTHEAST WIND GUSTS UP TO 35 MPH.

* VISIBILITIES...ONE QUARTER MILE OR LESS POSSIBLE AT TIMES.


PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A WINTER STORM WATCH IS ISSUED FOR THE POTENTIAL OF ACCUMULATING
SNOW OF 6 OR MORE INCHES IN A 12 HOUR PERIOD...OR 8 OR MORE
INCHES IN A 24 HOUR PERIOD. ANYONE TRAVELING IN THE NEXT 24 TO
36 HOURS SHOULD MONITOR LATER FORECASTS AND BE PREPARED TO MODIFY
TRAVEL PLANS SHOULD WINTER WEATHER DEVELOP.

&&

$$
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36847
Quoting LargoFl:
..In the spring when all this snow cover melts, hopefully it will help refill the great lakes some


And hopefully it will releave some of the drought the Wisconsin has experienced the last couple of years.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36847
Doesnt look like the rain makes it south of I-4 gee...
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36847
snOMG SREF

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
135. VR46L
Quoting PedleyCA:


Was trying to source a comment I made last night that I got from the Ch-5 Los Angeles News. They said there were 500k People and 1000 islands in that group of Islands. Can't verify the number of islands but that takes care of the population part. There is a wiki entry with a list of islands but it might be in the hundreds and may be incomplete.

56.3 here this morning.



This is worse than yesterday for Riverside, Orange and San Diego counties.
L.A. county is bad too.


Yeah the wiki link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solomon_Islands Has it at nearly 1000 Islands but I imagine ,many are tiny and uninhabited . But Wiki is not always the most trustworthy source anyone can post an entry . But that is my opinion.
Member Since: March 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6820
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36847
Quoting nymore:
I wonder if Jeff will have a blog on this new info about the climate for 2012

From the 2012 state of the climate report Link Now all of a sudden 2012 was not the warmest La Nina on record or second for that matter. It is also the tenth warmest not ninth as previously stated.

La Nina, which is defined by cooler-than-normal waters in the eastern and central equatorial Pacific Ocean that affect weather patterns around the globe, was present during the first three months of 2012. The weak-to-moderate La Nina dissipated in the spring and was replaced by ENSO-neutral conditions for the remainder of the year. When compared to previous La Nina years, the 2012 global surface temperature was the warmest observed during such a year; 2011 was the previous warmest La Nina year on record. When compared to previous La Nina years, the 2012 global surface temperature was the third warmest observed during such a year, behind 2006 and 2009, which are currently tied for warmest.

FWIW Didn't James Hanson call it a strong La Nina just a month ago when evidence shows it was not and even NOAA calls it weak to moderate. You would think one of the other authors of that paper would have caught this blatant lie.
It appears in your zeal to smear yet again the good Dr. Hansen, you've missed the gist of the NOAA statement, which I'll repeat here:

Note: On January 15, 2012, NCDC announced as part of its 2012 Global Climate Report that 2012 was the warmest La Nina year on record. While there are a variety of approaches for defining a La Nina or El Nino year, NCDC's criteria is defined as when the first three months of a calendar year meet the La Nina or El Nino threshold as defined by NOAA Climate Prediction Center's (CPC) Oceanic Nino Index (ONI). The list of historical La Nina years released on January 15 was based on an ONI dataset in force in early 2012 and used a 1971--2000 base period. During the course of the year, CPC introduced an ONI dataset using different base periods for determining anomalies for each year, with the most recent years (1995 to date) utilizing the 1981--2010 base period. Because of long-term warming trends in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, applying this more recent base period allows for better discernment of the temperature patterns needed to identify El Nino and La Nina years. In the most recent version of the dataset, using the newer base period methodology, 2006 and 2009 are now classified as La Nina years. The global average temperature in both 2006 and 2009 was 0.02C (0.04F) higher than 2012, making these two years the warmest La Nina years on record. NCDC has updated (via strikeout) our Annual Global Climate report to reflect the most current CPC ONI dataset.

With binary definitions of El Nino or La Nina, small changes in processing the data can affect the classification of weak El Ninos or La Ninas. Despite these reclassifications, the general conclusions are similar from previous work: (1) global temperature anomalies for each phase (El Nino, La Nina, and neutral) have been increasing over time and (2) on average, global temperatures during El Nino years are higher than neutral years, which in turn, are higher than La Nina years.

NCDC continually examines its practices and definitions as science, datasets, and the understanding they bring improve. Thus, given the nature of our current method of classifying years as El Nino or La Nina, NCDC plans to re-examine and employ the best available definitions and datasets to robustly characterize the influence of El Nino and LaNina on annual global temperatures.


IOW: a) this is how science is done, and b) the planet continues to warm.
Quoting nymore:
They did not change the definition after the report came out. They just did not do their homework and got caught. You would think the people that make the definition would at the very least know what the definition is.
You're certainly free to express such opinions no matter how dreadfully incorrect they are. Ain't America great? ;-)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 183 - 133

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15Blog Index

Top of Page

About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.