GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Water levels on Lake Michigan are prone to change, year to year and even day to day. Mostly, that’s due to daily wind and drainage levels. However, after the large waves Wednesday that claimed lives in Lake Michigan, one viewer wants to know if the full super moon had anything to do with the height of the waves.
WHY DO TIDES HAPPEN?
Tides are felt all across the world as the ocean responds to the gravity force of the moon and Earth. Earth spins one revolution every 24 hours. The moon, meanwhile, is undergoing its own rotation around the Earth. As these two celestial bodies perform their daily dance, the gravity force between the two will pull on each other.
The pull of the moon literally pulls the water on Earth toward it. From space, this would look like a bulge or bubble as the water on the moon-side of the planet reaches toward the moon.
Due to interesting forces in space, the bulge of water must have a counterpart. The impact of the gravity force acts to “squeeze” the earth on two sizes and allow a second “bulge” of water to occur directly opposite to the first.
As the earth spins within this “bubble” of water, a person on the ground would experience two high tides per day and two low tides.
DOES LAKE MICHIGAN HAVE TIDES?
The short answer is yes. While quite small in comparison to an ocean, Lake Michigan boasts a size of about 2,300 square miles. This is just large enough to experience a small tidal force on the water.
While quite minimal, Lake Michigan is subjected to high tides of about 0.5 inches to 1.5 inches, on average, twice a day. Some experts say the fluctuation can be as high as 4 inches twice a day due to local topography. This change is so minimal other factors often drown it out. Wind is one of the primary factors that change water level, pushing water from one part of the basin to the next.
Heavy rain or drought can also play a big role in daily, weekly and monthly trends in water level. Daily pressure also has an effect.
So while Lake Michigan does experience water level change due to tidal force, any impact the tide had on Wednesday’s waves was exceptionally low. The waves on Wednesday were due to a fast increase in northerly wind over the water.