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Great Lakes Water Levels Are Rising, and 2020 Could Be No Different

Oct 17, 2019 05:29AM ● By Editor

From Environmental Protection On-line - October 17, 2019


This year has seen record-breaking water levels for oceans, lakes, and rivers around the world—not because of an increase in water supply, but for a number of climate changes and extreme environmental swings. Rising water levels mean cities and off-shore communities must adapt: their roadways, their flood systems, and their emergency response systems.

The Great Lakes of Michigan have seen record-breaking water levels this year—and scientists think they’ll continue to rise in 2020. This September was particularly rainy for the Great Lakes area, and measurements by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers show every Great Lake, and Lake St. Clair, well above long-term monthly average water levels for October.

For Lakes Michigan and Huron, levels were a good three feet higher (35 inches), and on Lake St. Clair, levels were up 33 inches. Lake Erie is 29 inches higher than October averages, and Lake Ontario is 20 inches above and Lake Superior 15 inches above.

These levels won’t just diminish with the start of the new year. Forecasters predict Lakes Michigan and Huron will start the 2020 year at 11 inches higher than water levels in January 2019, said Keith Kompoltowicz, chief of watershed hydrology at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Detroit.

“The latest forecast extends into March, and for the most part, levels are going to be on-par with or above where they were at the same time last year,” he said. 

Next year’s water levels for the Great Lakes will depend on a number of factors; however, this is the fourth year in a row these factors have been abnormal. Snowpack and heavier-than-usual rains will determine water levels, and since Michigan has seen an increase in these factors for the past four springs, 2020 will likely be no different.

These water levels are breaking records left and right—and they’re not the records you want to break. Lake Superior, Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario all set new record-high levels over the summer. Lakes Michigan and Huron were an inch or less off their 100-year highs. In July, lakes Erie and Ontario broke their monthly records by over four inches.


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