Great Lakes Water Levels Going Down

Bill's Blog

The above pic. is the Sat. (2/27) afternoon satellite image. It shows clear skies over much of the region, with snow on the ground across E. Wisconsin and W. Michigan. There is a layer of thin fog/low clouds from Central Lake Michigan east to the Holland area. You can see ice in Green Bay, up by the Mackinac Bridge and along the W. Michigan shore around the Holland/S. Haven area.

South Haven Channel 2 27 21

This was the scene Sat. PM at the South Haven Channel. You can see the “pancake ice”. You have to crawl out across a significant amount of ice to get out to the end of the pier (breakwater). Today (Sat.) is the warmest day in Grand Rapids since Christmas Eve. While Monday will be a cool and windy day, the overall pattern will remain warmer than average across the Great Lakes into the 2nd week of March.

Great Lakes Ice Extent 2/26/21

The warmer weather and some wind have combined to break up ice on the Great Lakes. As a whole, the lakes are down to a 22.8% ice cover and Lake Michigan has dropped from a high of 33.3% on 2/18 to 12.2% on Friday the 26th.

Great Lakes Historical Maximum Ice Extent

The maximum ice extent for this winter will be 45.8% on 2/19. That’s a little below the average maximum of 53.3%, but well above the 19.5% maximum of last winter. You can see a lot of year-year variation and often there is a span of 2-5 years when the maximum ice extent is similar.

Grand River (on the left) in downtown Gr. Rapids Sat PM 2/27/21

Great Lakes water levels have been falling. First of all, most of the rivers in the Great Lakes have below average flow:

The Grand River in Grand Rapids has a flow of 3,690 cubic feet per second, compared to an average flow of 4,160 cfs. The Muskegon River at Croton has a flow of 1,670 cfs, compared to an average flow of 2,270 cfs. The Kalamazoo River has a flow of 890 cfs, compared to an average flow of 1,040 cfs. The St. Joseph River at Niles has a flow of 2,900 cfs, compared to an average flow of 4,340 cfs. The Fox River at Appleton WI has a flow of 3,420 cfs, compared to an average flow of 3,900 cfs.

Canada/U.S. border Sat. PM 2 27 21

This was the International Border at S. Ste. Marie Sat. PM – temperatures reached the mid 40s at SSM Saturday – warmest day of the year so far. The border remains closed to all but essential traffic until at least March 20 because of COVID. Watching the camera here for a long time – I saw just one truck going across the border.

The rivers that connect the Great Lakes have above average flow. The St. Clair River at Port Huron has a flow of 227,000 cfs, compared to an average flow of 160,000 cfs. \

So, you have a higher than average flow out of the Great Lakes and a lower than average flow into the lakes – that means the water level of the lakes will drop.

Graph of the Water Level of Lake Superior

The water level of Lake Superior is down 3″ in the last month and down 6″ in the last year. The lake is still 7″ above the February average, but 7″ below the highest February water level reached last year.

Graph of the Water Level of Lake Michigan/Huron

The water level of Lakes Michigan/Huron is down 2″ in the last month and down 9″ year-to-year. That’s great news for property owners who have been fighter beach erosion and lakeshore flooding on days when we have strong onshore winds. The lakes are still 27″ above the February average, but also 11″ below the highest February level set last year.

Graph of the Water Level of Lake Erie

The water level of Lake Erie has had quite a drop…down 6″ in the last month and down 15″ in the last year. The level is still 20″ above the February average, but is now 15″ below the highest Feb. level, also set last year.

Graph of the Water Level of Lake Ontario

The water level of Lake Ontario is down 3″ in the last month and down a whopping 22″ in the last year. The level is 4″ BELOW the February average and 30″below the highest Feb. level set in 1936.

Graph of the Water Level of Lake St. Clair

The water level of Lake St. Clair is down 2″ in the last month and down 9″ in the last year. The lake is still 30″ above the February average level, but is 9″ below the highest Feb. level, which was in 1986.

GREAT LAKES NEWS: Carhartt and Guinness commercials feature Fishtown in NW Michigan. Michigan approves Great Lakes oil pipeline tunnel permits. Pics. of Lake Erie ice. Video of Lake Michigan ice breaking away (due to a brisk west wind) in Chicago. Coast Guard warns of unsafe ice. Scientists discuss efforts to restore fish species in Lake Michigan. Discussing the risk of dam failures in the Great Lakes. Just 50 miles from Lake Michigan, ground water is running out. Adventure-seekers take on Lake Superior’s ice chunks. Roads earn national scenic byway designations. Kalamazoo River clean-up to start soon. Teenage diver pickin’ up trash. Smelt population in the U.S. has crashed. Climbing on shore ice is dangerous. Canada’s smallest national park. Coast Guard still breaking up ice. Can a cold snap kill invasive species. Surfing in winter. Ice Fishing. Breathing under the ice. Vegetables instead of road salt? Black & white pics. – out on the ice. Lake Superior scenic byway. Rare triple ice volcanoes. Olympian skates on Lake Michigan. Coyotes on Lake Huron.

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