Great Lakes Water Levels and News

Bill's Blog

We’ll start with the good news. The water level of Lake Michigan is down 4″ in the last month. The lake is still 4″ higher than it was one year ago and 33″ higher than the September average level, but it’s now 1″ lower than the September record average level set in 1986.

Graph of the Water Level of Lakes Michigan/Huron

Some of you might remember the Flood of ’86. We had very heavy rainfall over much of West Michigan the night of the Sept 10-11. Grand Rapids officially had 2.18″ before midnight and 3.21″ after midnight. Parts of N. Kent and Newaygo Co. had over 8″ of rain that night. Grand Rapids had 11.92″ of rain that September and another 1.48″ in the first five days of October. The September total was 8.78″ above average. Many rivers had record flooding, including the Rogue in Kent Co. and the Muskegon River. Here’s more on the flood of 1986. With lower river levels now, I don’t think we’ll reach the record high water level that we reached in October 1986.

Graph of the Water Level of Lake Superior

The water level of Lake Superior is down 1″ in the last month and down 3″ in the last year. The level is 10″ higher than the September average level and it’s now 3′ below the record highest monthly average water level set last year.

Graph of the Water Level of Lake Erie

Lake Erie is also down 4″ in the last month and it’s down 1″ in the last year. The lake is 27″ higher than the September average and it’s right at the record highest average September level set in September 2019.

Graph of the Water Level of lake Ontario

Lake Ontario dropped 7″ in the last month and down 15″ in the last year. The lake is only 6″ higher than the average September level and is 20″ below the record highest water level set in 1947.

Graph – Water Level of Lake St. Clair

Lake St. Clair is down 1″ in the last month, up 3″ in the last year and is 33″ above the September average level. The lake is 3″ higher than the record highest September water level set in 2019.

St. Clair River – pic. from the Army Corps of Engineers from the American side looking toward the Canadian side

The flow of all the rivers that connect the Great Lakes have above to much above average flow. The St. Mary’s River, which flows from Lake Superior into Lake Huron had a flow early Sunday of 98,400 cubic feet per second. The St. Clair River at Port Huron had a flow of 277,000 cfs, compared to an average September flow of 195,000 cfs.

Grand River near Ada – pic. from Kent Co. Parks

Most rivers in the Western Great Lakes have above average flow. The Grand River at Grand Rapids has a flow of 3,320 cfs early Sunday AM – the average flow for Sept. 13 is 1,480 cfs. The Muskegon River at Croton has a flow of 1,430 cfs, compared to an average flow of 1,130 cfs. The Kalamazoo River at Comstock has a flow of 1,190 cfs compared to an average flow of 538 cfs. The St. Joseph River at Niles has a flow of 2,490 cfs, compared to an average flow of 1,890 cfs. The Saginaw River at Saginaw has a flow of 3,750 cfs, compared to an average flow of 1,580 cfs. Finally, the Fox River at Green Bay, Wisconsin has a flow of 6,030 cfs, compared to an average flow of 2,450 cfs.

Upwelling of cold water with a prevailing east or northeast wind

Upwelling has occurred along the Michigan shore of Lake Michigan. The persistent northeast wind pushed warmer surface water out toward the Wisconsin and Illinois side of the lake, bringing up colder water up to the surface. Saturday, the water temps. of Lake Michigan were: Ludington 58°, Mears 58°, Hoffmaster S.P. 59° and Holland 57°.

Precipitation – Difference from Average from January 1 thru September 12

Here’s the difference from average for precipitation from January 1 through September 12. The Grand River starts near Jackson, flows north to Lansing and then west into Grand Rapids and on to Lake Michigan. All that extra precipitation has helped keep the water level of Lake Michigan/Huron high this year.

Rainfall for Saturday September 12, 2020

Rainfall was light on Saturday. The models overforecast rainfall a bit…I think rainfall was a little lower due to a layer of smoke that was over Lower Michigan Saturday PM.

Great Lakes News: Great Lakes record 42 waterspouts in one day – 84 in a week! Judge OKs oil flow through second Great Lakes pipeline. Invasive aquatic plant found in 4 Michigan inland lakes. More than 80 drownings reported in the Great Lakes this summer. More than half those drownings have been in Lake Michigan. Detroit Zoo hopes to bring back the piping plover. The latest from Boatnerd. Great Lakes buoy data. Minnesota shipwreck hunters locate long-sought Lake Michigan wreck. Great Lakes Scuttlebutt. Goldfish flushed down toilet grows to be the size of a small dog (it’s a British tabloid).

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