Great Lakes Ice Extent, Water Levels and News

Bill's Blog

Let’s start with Great Lakes ice extent, which has been increasing due to the colder pattern. As of Thursday PM, the Great Lakes had a 10.2% ice cover. Lake Huron had the most at 17.3%. Lake Michigan is up to 9.8% ice cover – and deepest Lake Superior was at 6.8%. Friday AM, there were some temps. below zero in the U.P. and some spots in Lower Michigan that cleared out fell to the single digits.

Historical Record of Great Lakes ice extent since 1973 (start of the satellite era

The least maximum ice extent on the Great Lakes was 11.9% in 2002 – we should surpass that this winter. Second least was 12.9% in 2012 (when it was so warm in March). The greatest extent was 94.7% in 1979 (the 3rd consecutive very cold winter) and the average maximum extent is 53.3%.

The Western Great Lakes have seen water levels drop over the last month. Grand Rapids has had 0.77″ of precipitation in January – that’s 0.80″ below average. Battle Creek has picked up only 0.48″ and that’s also 0.80″ below average.

The water level of Lake Superior is down 4″ in the last month (representing a loss of 2.2 billion gallons of water) and down 7″ in the past year. The lake is still 7″ above the January average level, but 7″ below the highest January water level set in 1986.

The level of Lake Michigan/Huron – one lake for lake level purposes – is down 2″ in the last month and down 8″ year-to-year. The level is still 31″ below the average January level, but it’s now 4″ below the highest January level set in 1987.

Lake Erie is up 1″ in the last month, but is down 7″ in the last year and is 7″ below the record January level of 1935. The level is 26″ above the average January level.

Lake Ontario is unchanged in the last month, but down 19″ year-to-year. The lake is only 1″ below the average January level and is 22″ below the 1935 record highest January level.

Lake St. Clair is down 2″ in the last month and down 10″ in the past year. The lake is 28″ above the average January level and is 10″ below the January record level of 1935.

International Bridge – S. Ste. Marie

This is the International Bridge at S. Ste. Marie – only “essential” traffic is being allowed across the border due to COVID and that has been the case now for over 10 months (since Mar. 20, 2020

The St. Marys River at S. Ste. Marie shows a flow this Sat. AM of 87,200 cubic feet per second, compared to an average flow of 73,200 cfs. The Detroit River at Detroit has a flow of 249,000 cfs, compared to an average flow of 165,000 cfs.

Most Michigan rivers are close to average flow: The Grand River at Grand Rapids has a flow (early Sunday 1/24) of 3,240 cfs, compared to an average flow of 2,990 cfs. The Muskeegon River at Croton has a flow of 1,970 cfs, very close to the average flow of 2,000 cfs. The Kalamazoo River at Comstock has a flow of 1,110 cfs – average is 875 cfs. The St. Joseph River at Niles has a flow of 2,730 cfs – average is 3,380. The Tittawabassee River at Midland has a flow of 1,060 cfs – almost exactly on the average of 1,050 cfs. The Fox River at Appleton WI is still on the high side with a flow of 5,650 cfs – average is 3,620 cfs.

GREAT LAKES NEWS: Lighthouse crumbling into Lake Michigan. Submerged tugboat removed. Bird not endangered anymore. 17 acres added to Van Buren State Park.

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