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

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

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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

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Quoting allancalderini:
Touche.
kori is always like that he is harmless
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Sandy sounded innocuous too. We saw how that went...
Touche.
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Quoting Astrometeor:


Model consensus counts for something, though. I don't know about your past duds, but the models (especially the euro) has been fairly accurate this past year or so.


Astro...you're up...
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Quoting weatherrx2012:
Nemo is probably going to turn out to be another hyped up storm early on by the computers and end up actually being a big dud. Please, 2ft. Get real! I've seen this happen so many times in New England, it isn't even funny. I'll believe it when I see it.


Model consensus counts for something, though. I don't know about your past duds, but the models (especially the euro) has been fairly accurate this past year or so.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
the problem with greenland is not the ice melt but the water which seeps down from the surface on the melted ice cap creating possibilty vast caverns of melted ice water thereby adding to an increse flow and lifting of the ice therefore causing the event to go so much faster and faster than previous seasons before

we have to wait to see if it occurrs once more in the summer of 2013


Indeed, KEEPEROFTHEGATE.

I see no reason to think it won't happen again and that it won't continue melting at an exponential rate.
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Quoting SteveDa1:
The NSIDC just released a new website yesterday on February 5, 2013. Similar to their daily Arctic sea ice extent update, this one is about the Greenland ice sheet.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center today launched a Web site that offers the latest satellite data and periodic scientific analysis on surface melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, a significant climate indicator watched by climate scientists worldwide. The site presents images of the widespread melt on Greenland during 2012 and scientific commentary on the year's record-breaking melt extent.

Read more of the press release.

The actual website.

An article on the main page talks about the intense surface melting in July 2012...

An intense Greenland melt season: 2012 in review
Greenland%u2019s surface melting in 2012 was intense, far in excess of any earlier year in the satellite record since 1979. In July 2012, a very unusual weather event occurred. For a few days, 97% of the entire ice sheet indicated surface melting. This event prompted NSIDC to build this Web site, with the help of two prominent experts on Greenland surface melting.

Warm conditions in 2012 were caused by a persistent high pressure pattern that lasted much of the summer. Since September, temperatures have remained warmer than average, but dropped well below freezing as autumn and winter arrived. We review the year's events, and introduce some general characteristics of the Greenland ice sheet.

Continued on the link above...



the problem with greenland is not the ice melt but the water which seeps down from the surface on the melted ice cap creating possibilty vast caverns of melted ice water thereby adding to an increse flow and lifting of the ice therefore causing the event to go so much faster and faster than previous seasons before

we have to wait to see if it occurrs once more in the summer of 2013
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
XX/XX/XX
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
The NSIDC just released a new website yesterday on February 5, 2013. Similar to their daily Arctic sea ice extent update, this one is about the Greenland ice sheet.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center today launched a Web site that offers the latest satellite data and periodic scientific analysis on surface melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, a significant climate indicator watched by climate scientists worldwide. The site presents images of the widespread melt on Greenland during 2012 and scientific commentary on the year's record-breaking melt extent.

Read more of the press release.

The actual website.

An article on the main page talks about the intense surface melting in July 2012...

An intense Greenland melt season: 2012 in review
Greenland's surface melting in 2012 was intense, far in excess of any earlier year in the satellite record since 1979. In July 2012, a very unusual weather event occurred. For a few days, 97% of the entire ice sheet indicated surface melting. This event prompted NSIDC to build this Web site, with the help of two prominent experts on Greenland surface melting.

Warm conditions in 2012 were caused by a persistent high pressure pattern that lasted much of the summer. Since September, temperatures have remained warmer than average, but dropped well below freezing as autumn and winter arrived. We review the year's events, and introduce some general characteristics of the Greenland ice sheet.

Continued on the link above...



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Nemo is probably going to turn out to be another hyped up storm early on by the computers and end up actually being a big dud. Please, 2ft. Get real! I've seen this happen so many times in New England, it isn't even funny. I'll believe it when I see it.
Member Since: July 25, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 24
Quoting Bluestorm5:
Look like GFS is showing way less snow on this 0z run, if I'm reading it correctly.


Im seeing that too
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Quoting allancalderini:
The irony that the name Nemo don`t provoke any scary feeling and would probably be the most outstanding winterstorm of the season.btw tomorrow is the big game pbs vrs cbs hope my school win.


Sandy sounded innocuous too. We saw how that went...
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Quoting HurricaneDean07:
Just posted a blog, Check it out if you're Interested.

2013 Hurricane Season ; Another Active Season to come?



i think evere one is talking more about the snow storm comeing up and not about hurricane season right now so i would try agin later
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Did anyone notice there is a Hurricane force wind watch for the waters outside Nantucket, MA???

This storm could produce hurricane winds there...wow
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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:
GFS LONG RUN... could be looking at a similar scenario!!!


There is no high pressure over eastern Canada on that model run. That high is very important to the strongest nor'easters because it supplies the storm with cold air. Without it, the air won't be cold enough to support a blockbuster storm.
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 47 Comments: 11694
Look like GFS is showing way less snow on this 0z run, if I'm reading it correctly.
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Quoting 900MB:
I'm sticking with Euro! Didn't fail me w Sandy. Signed, NYC snowstorm of 12"-15"+



much more than this
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Quoting 900MB:
I'm sticking with Euro! Didn't fail me w Sandy. Signed, NYC snowstorm of 12"-15"+


well then... if you go for that I go for over 20" from Nemo... northeast of NYC
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Quoting Grothar:


Did you get new eye glasses? Those images are pretty small.
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508. 900MB
I'm sticking with Euro! Didn't fail me w Sandy. Signed, NYC snowstorm of 12"-15"+
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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:
Who thinks of record snowfall for certain places from Nemo?
The irony that the name Nemo don`t provoke any scary feeling and would probably be the most outstanding winterstorm of the season.btw tomorrow is the big game pbs vrs cbs hope my school win.
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GFS LONG RUN... could be looking at a similar scenario!!!

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Looks like Dover, DE is dodging the bullet with too warm temps....
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Facebook comment on TWC about the upcoming storm...

They're saying 1-3 inches for NYC.... I looked at some of the updated models.... it's going to be a lot more than that. Expect a foot. If you are in a norther suburb, expect 16 inches. Anywhere in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island: At least 24 inches. These forecasters are afraid to put out these ridiculous forecasts but it WILL happen. Please be prepared.
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All winter weather alerts updated for the NYC/Boston area... no changes in snowfall forecast.

Although why they call for blizzard watch over there in Boston (winds gusting to 55 mph) while here northeast of NYC we are under a winter storm watch for for stronger wind gusts of 60 mph...??

I know there is much more depth to that..
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Quoting HurricaneDean07:
Just posted a blog, Check it out if you're Interested.

2013 Hurricane Season ; Another Active Season to come?
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Who thinks of record snowfall for certain places from Nemo?
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Just posted a blog, Check it out if you're Interested.

2013 Hurricane Season ; Another Active Season to come?
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It's very interesting...

From this...



To this...


big deal now there at the NWS...
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Quoting AussieStorm:
Jim Cantore ‏@JimCantore
00z NAM still going crazy with 40"-60" of snow within red area including #Boston and #Providence. Eerily interesting:



it's called getting pulled over and getting a DUI... too high
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Jeff Piotrowski ‏@Jeff_Piotrowski
Bufkit for KORH snow amounts are up to 43" pic.twitter.com/frQzv2c1

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@spann James Spann
New 00Z RPM with projected snow accumulation through 72 hours.

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Jim Cantore ‏@JimCantore
00z NAM still going crazy with 40"-60" of snow within red area including #Boston and #Providence. Eerily interesting:

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Living on the New Hampshire seacoast, we've been spoiled the last couple of years. Last year I only fired up the snowblower twice. Looking like I better get it ready to go and make sure my plow truck is ready too.
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Snow! 15-18" forecast for me through Friday. Glad I just got all my groceries for the week. This amount will put us near normal I believe.


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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:


cam you put any pictures of it's projection?




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Quoting Bluestorm5:
NAM is still sticking with 3 feet storm in New England.


Please NOOooo!!!!! the memories of Blizzard Larry on this date in 1978 are still vivid!! don't want to go through THAT again..we need snow here in the mountains of Western Maine/NH..but NOT 3 FEET of it:(
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Quoting AussieStorm:

Dude Chillax. All I'm saying is, JB is saying it is possible, not definite. Its a model guidance. Heck people in here show models for systems 240hrs out. I think I posted a 240hr ECMWF of Isaac off the coast of Louisiana and it came to bare. ECMWF was spot on with Sandy. The ECMWF is IMO ten times better at forecasting than the GFS. So I wouldn't be surprised if what the ECMWF is showing 240hrs out comes to bare also.



It's also really helpful to notice that the total snow accumulation on that map is through 240 hours, and includes accumulations from the upcoming storm in 4 days lol. It's very hard to tell what extra accumulation occurs after this first storm between 120 and 240 hours based on that map.
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How's everyone doing? Been awhile, hasnt it?
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Quoting AussieStorm:

But Debby was pretty much a one sided system. Maybe a bit more moisture from being over the GOM for longer might of helped her.


well at first it wasn't moving much... but yes..it kinda wasted some good time dealing w/ dry air
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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:


very true....

But Debby was pretty much a one sided system. Maybe a bit more moisture from being over the GOM for longer might of helped her.
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Meanwhile the 18Z GFS calls for nearly 20" for my area

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

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