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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Meanwhile the 18Z GFS calls for nearly 20" for my area

Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14870
Quoting Bluestorm5:
NAM is still sticking with 3 feet storm in New England:



cam you put any pictures of it's projection?
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14870
In case you missed it
The NHC has almost completely finished with their Tropical Cyclone Reports for the season of 2012.
They released Chris and Leslie 's reports today, with the two storms both being upgraded slightly, Nothing major.
The most significant change to the storms were their minimum Pressures.

Chris:
85 Mph(Was 75 Mph)
974 MB(Was 989 MB)

Leslie:
80 Mph(Was 75 Mph)
968 MB(Dont know exactly what the previous min pres. was)


The NHC has saved the biggest storm report for last, Sandy's
That report should be released within the next week.
My assumption is for Sandy to be upgraded to a Major Hurricane and they will go far in depth of the total storm summary of Sandy considering it was debatably the most devastating storm to hit the Northeast in almost a century.
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NAM is still sticking with 3 feet storm in New England.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


Everyone, including myself, were screaming 'convective feedback!', turns out in the end we were all dead wrong. Though if Debby had turned west, there is no doubt in my mind Texas would have gotten a Category 1-2 hurricane.


very true....
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14870
Quoting Bluestorm5:
Actually, I remembered that as well. It was crazy how GFS end up being correct.


Everyone, including myself, were screaming 'convective feedback!', turns out in the end we were all dead wrong. Though if Debby had turned west, there is no doubt in my mind Texas would have gotten a Category 1-2 hurricane.
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Quoting AussieStorm:

I remember all the models except one had Debby going towards Texas and in the end, it was that one that was correct. I'm also thinking GFS
Actually, I remembered that as well. It was crazy how GFS end up being correct.
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Quoting Thecanadian:
It would seem a large storm is coming to us in southern new brunswick canada does anyone know any snow totals expected in saint john new brunswick or map links i can use ? it would be very helpfull


Here's the Wundermap with the extended forecast for Saint John, New Brunswick: Snow, snow and snow
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Quoting Bluestorm5:


I didn't track the storm, but I believe it was GFS. Not 100% sure, though.

I remember all the models except one had Debby going towards Texas and in the end, it was that one that was correct. I'm also thinking GFS
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Here comes!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Five Deaths Following Temotu Tsunami

Emergency crews have now been dispatched to the remote Santa Cruz Islands in the far east of Solomon Islands after a tsunami was generated yesterday by a 8.0 magnitude earthquake.

It has been confirmed that few villages with more than a hundred houses were destroyed and at least seven people have died with many still remain missing. These were the confirmed reports received so far:

Mbimbe village; 1 child missing, Nea village; 200 houses destroyed, 1 injured, Bania village; 10 houses destroyed, Manoputi village; 20 houses destroyed, Venga village; 100 houses destroyed, 2 casualties, Nela village; 30 houses destroyed, 2 casualties, Malo village; Luava village; 16 houses destroyed, 1 casualty, Lata terminal; parts of terminal dammaged and runway blocked by debris.

The full extent of the damage however is yet to be assessed with debris and high water levels cutting off access to some areas.

http://www.solomontimes.com/news/five-deaths-foll owing-temotu-tsunami/7507
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471. etxwx
Bacteria Found Deep Under Ice, Scientists Say, Opening New Antarctic World

By JAMES GORMAN - NYT - February 6, 2013
Excerpt: For the first time, scientists report, they have found bacteria living in the cold and dark deep under the Antarctic ice, a discovery that might advance knowledge of how life could survive on other planets or moons and that offers the first glimpse of a vast ecosystem of microscopic life in underground lakes in Antarctica.

Complete article here.
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:

Yeah, GFS nailed Debby like the ECMWF nailed Isaac and Sandy.


I'm not even...
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 14249
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 14249
Quoting Bluestorm5:


I didn't track the storm, but I believe it was GFS. Not 100% sure, though.

Yeah, GFS nailed Debby like the ECMWF nailed Isaac and Sandy.
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Quoting help4u:
Historic storm coming who wants to talk water levels! Lol!!!!!


All depends on where the precip falls. the great lakes could get none.
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Quoting AussieStorm:

The ECMWF practically nailed Isaac 240hrs out. Which model got TS Debby right, GFS or ECMWF?


I didn't track the storm, but I believe it was GFS. Not 100% sure, though.
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Historic storm coming who wants to talk water levels! Lol!!!!!

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Quoting KoritheMan:


Isaac, perhaps?

The ECMWF practically nailed Isaac 240hrs out. Which model got TS Debby right, GFS or ECMWF?
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Quoting TomTaylor:
sorry i overreacted.

im chillin now, have fun at the beach.

Back from my walk, This is what my local looks like. Stunning


I'll go for a swim later, sun is to hot right now.

Oh and this is my backyard, lol

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Dr. Greg Forbes Torcon Index

Thursday, Feb. 7

A low chance of an isolated severe thunderstorm in southeast OK, coastal LA, FL panhandle,
coastal GA, coastal SC, coastal NC. TORCON - 1
Friday, Feb. 8

A low chance of an isolated severe thunderstorm in coastal NC. TORCON - 1
Saturday, Feb. 9

Scattered severe thunderstorms overnight in west and central TX near Fort Stockton, Midland,
Childress, Abilene, San Angelo, and Del Rio east to Dallas, San Antonio, and College Station
by morning. An isolated severe thunderstorm is possible over west OK, southwest KS.

TOR:CON -

KS southwest - 2 night
OK west - 2 night
TX central, part of east - 2 night
other areas - 1 or less
Sunday, Feb. 10

Severe thunderstorm outbreak possible in central and east TX from around I-35 eastward,
extreme southeast OK, south AR, LA, central and south MS.

TOR:CON -

AR south - 3 to 4
LA - 4
MS central, south - 3 to 4
OK extreme southeast - 3
TX east of I-35 - 4
other areas - 1 or less
Monday, Feb. 11

Severe thunderstorms in south TX, south LA, south MS, south AL, west FL panhandle.

TOR:CON -

All areas - 2
Tuesday, Feb. 12

Scattered severe thunderstorms along the stalled front, as the next upper-air system approaches,
in southeast TX, south and central LA, south and central MS, west-central and southwest AL. Severe thunderstorms may spread overnight into east-central
AL and northwest GA.

TOR:CON -

AL southwest - 4
AL central - 3 to 4
AL southeast night - 3 to 4
FL west panhandle - 2 to 3
GA northwest night - 2 to 3
LA south - 3
MS south - 4
MS east-central - 3 to 4
TX southeast - 2
other areas - 1 or less
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 14249
For West Palm Beach...Happy Winter!!!...

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Quoting MAweatherboy1:

Yep, the GFS has struggled big time on this one, the Euro absolutely dominated. A little like Sandy, in a way. It saw this coming way before the other models.


Isaac, perhaps?
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i cant wait too see what storm con has i think this may be are 1st 9 or 10 on the new TWC storm con
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My new Hurricane season 2013 video!!
Link
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HPC seems pretty confident: percent chance of snow >12" for the day three period:

Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11660
It would seem a large storm is coming to us in southern new brunswick canada does anyone know any snow totals expected in saint john new brunswick or map links i can use ? it would be very helpfull
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Baby bomb:

Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11660
Quoting PedleyCA:


Near Mission - TC, Santa Barbara, California (PWS)
Updated: 1 sec ago
Clear
57.4 %uFFFDF
Clear
Humidity: 38%
Dew Point: 32 %uFFFDF
Wind: 0.0 mph


Yes you are......
But I'm sleep deprived and I have a differential equations midterm tomorrow morning to study for. And that's on top of my physics hw and 4hr chem lab I have to do tonight.

I'm stressin out a bit
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4357
Quoting TomTaylor:
im chillin, have fun at the beach.


Near Mission - TC, Santa Barbara, California (PWS)
Updated: 1 sec ago
Clear
57.4 °F
Clear
Humidity: 38%
Dew Point: 32 °F
Wind: 0.0 mph
Wind Gust: 0.0 mph
Pressure: 30.00 in (Falling)
Visibility: 7.0 miles
UV: 1 out of 16
Pollen: 8.00 out of 12
Pollen Forecast new!
Clouds:
Clear -
(Above Ground Level)
Elevation: 32 ft

Yes you are......
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One doesn't simply 'prepare' for dealing with the madness that is tracking hurricanes on WU during hurricane season.
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Quoting AussieStorm:


Tom, chillax mate!
sorry i overreacted.

im chillin now, have fun at the beach.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4357
Quoting AussieStorm:

30in = 76cm. That is a massive snow dump. Does this storm have a name yet?

I think it got the name nemo
LOL
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Quoting 1900hurricane:


However, this is just one model solution. With some time before the event, who knows what can cause the forecast to change. Best to be prepared though!


Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
I'm going for a walk, be back in an hour. and Tom, chillax mate!
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Goodness..

Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 14249
Quoting PlazaRed:
Just on a closing note for tonight with the earthquake thing.
There is a city about 200 miles north of me in Spain. Its called Jaen and a village near by has had over 100 measurable earthquakes in the last 24 hours. and over 1500 in the last few months total. Mostly up to about 3 on the scale.
Prior to this outbreak there was no record of earthquakes in the area.
On the evening news, people were sleeping in their cars and keeping away from old houses, which are now full of cracks.
The government have stared investigating but have ruled out "fracking," as a possible cause.
I'll keep an eye on the area from now on for developments.


I was noting a number of faults running through Spain the other day as it were, will have to go see if they were in that area. My sleeping pills makes me a bit seeing things moving, halucinating I think hhaha, so getting hard to type! Is quite interesting effect it has on me LOL Typing moving around as it wants! Anyway, Spain certainly in a zone with some decent faults around. Not massive ones, but only need a wee bit to cause probs, Am interested in what's going on though,before my sleeping pill full on stops me LOL
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As already mentioned, the ECMWF is showing a complete blockbuster, but colorful graphics are always nice. All images below are from today's 12Z run.



12 hour ( /-6) accumulated precip and surface pressure: well, there's a lot of it. Humidities greater than 95% at 850 mb and 700 mb indicate the atmosphere is saturated and favorable for precipitation. Over 50 mm (2") is forecasted to have fallen near Boston in this 12 hour period. Using the common 10-12:1 liquid to snow conversion, this yields 20-24" of snow if it were all frozen. But will it be?



850 mb temp and 500 mb height: Looking good so far as temps are well below freezing down to 850 mb. Also note the powerful phased negatively tilted 500 mb trough driving the storm.



Surface temp and wind vectors: Things look pretty good here, with sub-freezing temps all the way to the coast. Large wind vectors are also noticeable.



Surface pressure and 850 mb wind velocity: Another indication of strong winds, thanks to the >980 mb bombing low and >1035 mb high (which is supplying the cold air) in close proximity to each other.

From space, it might look something like this:



However, this is just one model solution. With some time before the event, who knows what can cause the forecast to change. Best to be prepared though!
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11660
Quoting TomTaylor:
oh, really?

Why did you even bother to comment on my comment? I'm well aware models are guidance. My point is snow forecasts are incredibly sensitive, looking 10 days out is not smart. The fact that the ecmwf saw this storm several days out does not justify the validity of a 10 day snow forecast

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.

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Quoting PlazaRed:
Just on a closing note for tonight with the earthquake thing.
There is a city about 200 miles north of me in Spain. Its called Jaen and a village near by has had over 100 measurable earthquakes in the last 24 hours. and over 1500 in the last few months total. Mostly up to about 3 on the scale.
Prior to this outbreak there was no record of earthquakes in the area.
On the evening news, people were sleeping in their cars and keeping away from old houses, which are now full of cracks.
The government have stared investigating but have ruled out "fracking," as a possible cause.
I'll keep an eye on the area from now on for developments.


Interesting! I've had many memorable meals in the Refugio in Jaen. I may never get back there, but I would hate to think of it all sliding away.
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Quoting weatherrx2012:
I really hate to be rude, but why on earth is Dr. Masters only talking about the low levels of Lake Michigan and Huron. There was a major earthquake/tsunami in the Pacific Ocean last night, which caused a lot of damage, and there is a major WINTER storm that could potentially impact the North East this weekend. He could have mentioned both of these events in his article, along with the low lake levels. I understand that the low levels of water on the lake can majorly impact the shipping industry and cause multiple other problems, for the Great Lake community; but I don't think it should be the only topic of his article. He could have at least mentioned the other events, along with the low lake levels. Just my opinion though.

P.S.,
The earth has constantly gone through weather cycles, both warm and cold, throughout its history. So why is it that we constantly freak out over this warm cycle that we are currently in? Most weather records only date back to the 1800's. So who is to say that we didn't have a period on earth that was warmer than this one? You can't. So lets stop freaking out about Global Warming so much and start getting back to normal everyday weather events. I'm not saying never mention Global Warming, because it is an interesting topic, I'm only suggesting that we stop hyper focusing on it.


I just want to say...I'm sure the Dr. has had this blog in the works for a few days and had it ready to go when the earthqauke and tsunami happened. And being predominantly a weather blog, i see no reason for him to HAVE to make a blog about an earthquake and tsunami if he doesn't want to or has something else he had ready. I'm quite interested in tectonics and geological happenings, but this isn't the first place i'd go for information or to discuss it anyway. I don't see the big deal on him not posting a blog about the earthquake to be fair to him. Plenty of news sources for information on it by geologists than going on a weather blog. And neither do i see it as disrespectful to anyone injured or killed that he doesn't. His blog isn't here for every calamity going really. He can talk about whichever he wants IMHO
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Old Man

video from 1971
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Quoting Stormchaser121:


I'm ready!!


I don't want to be ready, I'm always ready to be ready, but it doesn't mean I want to be ready. You know what I mean? ;-)

Lindy
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Just on a closing note for tonight with the earthquake thing.
There is a city about 200 miles north of me in Spain. Its called Jaen and a village near by has had over 100 measurable earthquakes in the last 24 hours. and over 1500 in the last few months total. Mostly up to about 3 on the scale.
Prior to this outbreak there was no record of earthquakes in the area.
On the evening news, people were sleeping in their cars and keeping away from old houses, which are now full of cracks.
The government have stared investigating but have ruled out "fracking," as a possible cause.
I'll keep an eye on the area from now on for developments.
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Quoting AussieStorm:

No one knows how much precip will occur until it does happen and when the event is over. Models are just guidance. Not absolute.
oh, really?

I'm well aware models are guidance. My point is snow forecasts are incredibly sensitive, looking 10 days out is not smart. The fact that the ecmwf saw this storm several days out does not justify the validity of a 10 day snow forecast
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4357
Quoting PedleyCA:


Who you calling Elderly?

Old man , look at my life
I'm a lot like you were
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Quoting NEwxguy:


I agree,of older age,I can remember the blizzard of 78,it took a long time for most forecasters to fall into step with the major event,it just didn't look that bad,of course data collection was so archaic back then,we didn't have the amount of data we collect these days.but it still amazes how these small systems merge and explode.


The blizzard of 78 was a bizzarre thing indeed in upstate NY. They had closed the state down the day of its expected arrival... the forecast was that grim. State offices, schools, everything. The Low center went just north, over Lake Ontario as I recall. But something happened to the low, the local met then said that it got so deep that it split in two.... anyway... the Monstorous cold front simply stalled halfway between Buffalo and Rochester, and never really made it to Oswego, sigh, where the expected Lake effect was to be well over 10 feet in areas, according to that met (Bob Sykes, by name). We were hoping to be out of school till spring!~
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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.