Great Lakes Water Levels – Some Good News

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This was the Muskegon Channel on Saturday – still a fair number of boats on the lake enjoying a sunny mid-September day. Precipitation has been light across most of the Great Lakes and lake levels have gone down this past week.

Graph of the water level of Lake Supeior

Lake Superior is unchanged in the last month, but down 2″ from one year ago. The lake level is still 10″ higher than the average September level and it’s two inches lower than the record high September level set one year ago in 2019.

Graph of the water level of Lakes Michigan and Huron

Lake Michigan/Huron (one lake for lake level purposes) is down 3″ in the last month. It’s still 2″ higher than it was last September and 33″ above the September average level. The lake is 1″ below the record average September level set in 1986. It’s now unlikely that we’ll surpass the all-time record high water level that was set in October 1986.

Graph of the water level of Lake Erie

Lake Erie is down 4″ in the last month and down 2″ year-to-year. The lake is 26″ higher than the September average, but 2″ below the record high September level set last year.

Graph of the water level of Lake Ontario

The water level of Lake Ontario dropped 7″ in the last month (that’s a lot) and 15″ in the last year (that’s a lot). the lake is only 4″ above the average September level and is 22″ below the record high September level set in 1947.

Graph of the water level of Lake St. Clair

The water level of Lake St. Clair is down 4″ in the last month and unchanged from one year ago. The level is 30″ higher than the September average and at the same level as the record average September level set last year.

Michigan/Canada border at Sault Ste. Marie on Sat. PM 9/20/20

The pic. above was from Saturday PM, with rain falling at the Michigan/Canada border by the St. Mary’s River. The temperature at mid-afternoon was only 49 deg.

All the rivers that connect the Great Lakes have above average flow and that will continue through the fall and into the winter. The St. Mary’s River at Sault Ste. Marie has a flow of 89,700 cubic feet per second. The St. Clair River at Port Huron has a flow of 253,000 cfs, compared to an average flow of 195,000 cfs. The Detroit River at Detroit has a flow of 271,000 cfs, compared to a flow of 197,000 cfs.

Croton Dam on the Muskegon River

Many – but not all of the Great Lakes rivers have above average flow, but with the dry pattern, levels are falling. Grand Rapids has had just 0.08″ of rain in the last 10 days. The Grand River at Grand Rapids has a flow (early Sun. AM) of 2,260 cfs, compared to an average flow of 1,470 cfs. The Kalamazoo River at Comstock has a flow of 761 cfs – average is 544 cfs. The St. Joseph River has a flow of 1,560 compared to an average flow of 1,960 cfs. The Saginaw River at Saginaw has a flow of 3,720 cfs – average is 1,419 cfs. The Fox River at Green Bay WI has a flow of 11,600 cfs, compared to an average flow of 2,560 cfs.

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