The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Lake Michigan-Huron water levels at record highs, again

Climate change has caused water levels in the Lake Michigan-Huron system to swell in only six years, creating havoc in communities that depend on them:

In 2013, Lake Huron bottomed out, hitting its lowest mark in more than a century, as did Lake Michigan, which shares the same water levels, according to data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Around that time, the lake withdrew so far from the shore around Engle’s resort — then a collection of 12 rustic cabins and three docks — that mud was all that remained beneath his boathouse.

In just 3½ years, levels rose more than 1.3 m and last summer peaked at nearly 1.9 m above the record low.

Climate change is amplifying variability in lakes that are naturally predisposed to fluctuation. Unlike lakes Ontario and Superior, which are regulated by dams and binational regulatory boards, lakes Michigan and Huron, measured as one body of water because they are connected at the Straits of Mackinac, have no such controls and consequently have experienced the greatest variation from record low to high in the Great Lakes.

As the amount of heat-trapping greenhouse gases has spiked over the past century, the Earth’s warmer atmosphere is capable of holding additional moisture, which scientists say is resulting in more frequent and severe storms. Across the Great Lakes region, precipitation has increased 14%, and the frequency of heavy storms has risen 35% since 1951, contributing to widespread flooding. In the past two years, the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio each have endured a string of 12 consecutive months that have been the wettest in 124 years.

Here is the latest water-level chart from NOAA. Notice that last year's levels hit record highs during the summer and ended the year just below the record for December--meaning they started January considerably higher than the record for the month:

At least we have a lot of fresh water nearby. That might come in handy someday...

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