All the Great Lakes saw water levels drop in 2020. Lakes Michigan, Huron and Superior all saw the water level drop 6″ during the year. Lake Erie fell one inch and Lake St. Clair was down 2″. The biggest drop was on Lake Ontario, with a year-to-year drop of 14″.
Precipitation in Grand Rapids MI during 2020 totaled 37.44″. That was 0.83″ below average. We set an all time annual precipitation record in 2019 with 51.37″. We not only set a precipitation record for a single year, but we had the greatest 3-year and 5-year precipitation totals in G.R. All that extra rain really boosted the water levels of the Great Lakes from 2012 to 2019.
Many river levels have fallen a little below average: The Grand River in Grand Rapids (early Wed.) had a flow of 3,230 cubic feet per second – which is exactly average for Jan. 6. The Muskegon River at Croton had a flow of 2,490 cfs – average is 1,900 cfs. The Kalamazoo River at Comstock had a flow of 914 cfs, close to the average of 884 cfs. The St. Joseph River at Niles had a flow of 3,090 cfs, compared to an average flow of 3,360 cfs. On the east side of the state, the Tittawabassee River at Midland had a flow of 1,440 cfs – average is 1,200 cfs and across the lake, the Fox River at Appleton, Wisconsin had a flow of 3,920 cfs – average is 3,940 cfs.
Here’s the graph of the water level of Lake Michigan/Huron (one big lake for lake level purposes). You can see we peaked in July 2020.
Lake Superior had a long, flat peak during he summer and early fall last year, but with precipitation rates returning closer to average, the lake is likely to go down a couple more inches.
The water level of Lake Erie is only down one inch year-to-year and is unchanged in the last month. Still it’s a full 8 inches below the peak January level of 1987.
Lake Ontario has really dropped since the peak of June 2019. It’s down 14″ in the last year and is only 4″ above the average January level. The highest level ever in Jan. on Lake Ontario was in 1946.
Lake St. Clair is 2″ lower than one year ago, but it’s 9″ lower than the January highest level reached in 1986.