Great Lakes Water Levels Continue to Drop

Bill's Blog

With below average precipitation, above average sunshine, below average relative humidity and above average wind – the Great Lakes water levels continue to fall. Up top is the Great Lakes satellite picture from Friday April 2. Below I have the 5 individual pics. of the Great Lakes.

Lake Superior satellite picture 4 2 21

There are thin high clouds over NE Minnesota and W. Lake Superior and some streaky-freaky north south bands of clouds. Some of the lakes in the U.P. are still frozen (Gogebic) even after a mild winter There is snow on the ground in the Keweenaw Peninsula, the Porcupine Mtns. and to the weather and east of Marquette. Friday, Painesdale reported 9″ of snow on the ground, Kearsarge had 6″ and Herman 4″. You can see ice in Black Bay and Nipigon Bay, but the ice is mostly gone from Thunder Bay.

Great Lakes Ice Extent – April 2 2021

The ice extent map shows the last of the ice has melted in Lake Michigan. Only Lake Huron and Lake Superior have a little ice left.

The water level of Lake Superior is unchanged in the last month (at a time when the level is often rising due to snowmelt). The lake is 6″ lower than one year ago…still 7″ above the April average, but 9″ below the highest level ever reached in April back in 1986. The St. Mary’s River shows a flow of 77,100 cubic feet per second, now just slightly above the average April flow of 76,210 cfs. Since the river is pretty much back to average flow, that means that less water is flowing down into Lake Huron (and Michigan).

Lake Michigan Satellite Image from Friday 4 2 21

The Lake Michigan map shows mostly clear skies. That band of high clouds crossed West Michigan during the mid-afternoon. The water level of Lake Michigan is also unchanged in the last month, but it’s down 13″ in the last year! Since each inch represents 390 billion gallons, that means Lake Michigan has lost over 5 trillion gallons of water in just one year, when it was at its highest April level ever. It’s still 22″ above the April average.

Lake Huron Satellite Picture April 2 2021

The Lake Huron satellite image also shows the streak of high clouds that runs north-south along US 127 from Mt. Pleasant to Jackson. You can see a little ice in the North Channel, but it’s disappearing fast. Lake Huron is at the same water level as Lake Michigan, so it’s also down 13″ in the past year or down 5.2 trillion gallons.

Lake Erie (and Lake St. Clair) Satellite Picture from April 2 2021

On the pic. above, you can see a streak on the ground east of Cleveland – not at the immediate lakeshore, but a little bit inland where the elevation is a little higher. Lake Erie is up 2″ in the last month…but it’s also down 18″ (a foot and a half!) in the last year. It’s still 15″ above the April average.

Lake St. Clair is also up 2″ in the last month, but down 15″ year-to-year. The lake is 20″ above the April average.

The St. Clair River, that takes water from Lake Huron to Lake St. Clair has a flow of 235,000 cfs, compared to an average flow of 192,000. The Detroit River at Detroit has a flow of 250,000 cfs, compared to an average flow of 213,000. So…there is an above average amount of water coming out of the lake and a below average amount of runoff from inland rivers right now…the lake levels should continue to drop.

Satellite picture of Lake Ontario on Friday PM 4 2 21

The satellite picture of Lake Ontario shows snow on the ground on the hills on either side of the Finger Lakes. There’s also some old snow on the Tug Plateau due east of Lake Ontario.

Lake Ontario is up 3″ in the last month, but down 27″ in the last year (that’s over 2 feet!). the Lake is now 13″ BELOW the April average level and is now 43″ below the highest ever April level recorded in 1973.

The inland rivers generally have low water levels for this time of year, when we see runoff from snowmelt and from rain falling on wet ground.

The Grand River in Grand Rapids has a flow of 4,570 cfs, compared to an average flow of 7,020 cfs. So, that’s just 65% of average flow. The Muskegon River at Croton has a flow of 1,790 cfs, compared to an average flow of 3,380 cfs (53% of average). The Kalamazoo River at Comstock has a flow of 1,240 cfs, compared to an average flow of 1,340 cfs (93% of average flow – there was a little more rain along I-94 in late March than up in the G.R./Muskegon Area). The St. Joseph River at Niles has a flow of 3,790 cfs, compared to an average flow of 5,200 cfs. (73% of average flow). The Fox River at Appleton, Wisconsin has just fallen below average flow for what seems like the first time in at least several years. They’re at 7,000 cfs – average is 7,070 cfs.

GREAT LAKES NEWS: Chicago man running around Lake Michigan to support Alzheimer’s Association. Falling Lake Michigan water levels reveal old shipwreck. Sewers getting clogged with disposable wipes. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources plans to stock more than 400,000 catchable brook, brown, rainbow, and lake trout this year in lakes, rivers and ponds. The mysterious decline of Great Lakes shorebirds. Ferry from Milwaukee to Muskegon will start making trips across Lake Michigan May 7. Lake Erie walleye population expected to surge this summer. The lonliest place on Earth. A Big Discovery about a tiny fish. Landslides at Sleeping Bear Dunes. Floating wind turbines in the Great Lakes? ‘Pandemic fatigue’ may have increased Great Lakes drownings. Great Lakes Shipping Starts Earlier than Average this Year. 28-year old gull discovered.

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