Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair reach record high water levels

Bill's Blog
chicago glerl with low clouds and skyscrapers poking out the top 5 3 19_1556977513624.jpg.jpg

The picture above is from Friday PM and was taken at the Chicago water intake (Harrison-Dever Crib) looking west toward downtown.  You can see both a low layer of cloiuds and a high layer of clouds.  As moist air reaches downtown, the numerous buildings force the air to lift and condense out in a layer of low clouds.  Those clouds would not be there if the buildings were not there.

Imagine you’re riding an “ouitside” elevator up the John Hancock building.  You start out with good visibility at the ground with the low cloud layer above you.  Then as you go up you enter the cloud layer (very foggy).  Then you come out of the low clouds and you have a low undercast and a high level overcast with breaks in the high clouds.  The visibility is good and you can see the tops of the other high skyscrapers poking above the low clouds.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reports that the water level of both Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair has reached a record high for the month of May.  The water level of Lake Erie rose 10″ in the last month.  The lake is 7″ higher than one year ago and is now 27″ higher than the May average.  The level is now 1″ higher than the previous record high level set in 1986.  Erie PA is 2.63″ above average precipitation since Jan. 1. and Toledo OH is +2.87″ for the year. 

Lake St. Clair is also up 10″ in the last month and is 11″ higher than one year ago.  The Lake is now 30″ (two and a half feet) higher than the May average and 2″ higher than the previous record May high also set in 1986.  This kSat. AM – the flow on the Maumee River at Waterville OH was 31,300 cubic feet per second.  That’s more than 7 times the aveage May 4 flow of 4120 cfs.  The Sandusky River at Fremont OH was running at 4,640 cfs compared to an average flow of 508 cfs. 

The water level of Lake Michigan/Huron (these lakes are at the same water level – connected by the Stait of Mackinac) is up 8″ in the last month, up 9″ year-to-year and is now 24″ above the average May level.  The level is still 7″ below the record May level of 1986. 

Lake Superior is up 6″ in the last month.  That’s an incredible increase of 3.3 TRILLION gallons of water…mostly due to snowmelt.  S.Ste. Marie has had 14,55″ of precipitation this year and that’s 6.45″ above average.  Marquette has had 15.60″ of precipitation in 2019 and that’s 4.64″ above average.  (pic. from  Lake Ontario is up a whopping 16″ in the last month, up 10″ in the last year and is now 16″ above average. 

This is sunshiny Lake Macatawa – late morning Sat. 5/4/19.  The water level of lakes connected to the Great Lakes (Lake Mascatawa, Muskegon Lake, etc.) will also rise and fall with the level of Lake Michigan, so these lakes and connecting rivers near the lake also have high water levels now.

Fishing on the Grand River in Grand Rapids.   The flow on many Great Lakes area rivers is well above average.  Some examples:  The Grand River at Grand Rapids has a flow of 11,900 cubic feet per second this Saturday – compared to an average flor for May 4 of 4,550 cfs.  The Muskegon River at Croton shows a flowof 4,790 cfs compared to the average of 2,980 cfs.  The Kalamazoo River at Comstock is at 2,310 vs. an average flow of 1,100 cfs.  The high water flow will continue to feed into the Great Lakes, keeping water levels high or evening increasing them during the month of May. 

It’s May and there is still a little ice on the Great Lakes.  The Great Lakes as a whole is down to 1/2 of 1% ice cover with most of that in a couple of bays in Lake Superior (Black Bay).  There is still a little ice and a few floating bergs in Lake Huron and at the east end of Lake Erie, but those should go quicly.

Here’s historic maximum Great Lakes Ice Cover.  Four of the last 6 winters, Great Lakes maximum ice extent has been well above average. 

Here’s a record of Lake Michigan ice extent this past winter.  Not much ice into about the 3rd week of January because it was mild…then down came the Polar Vortex and ice extent increased rapidly and remained well above average for much of February into early March (rising and falling as strong winds broke up the ice…then it reformed when winds calmed down). 

Here’s the water temp. of Lake Michigan compared to average.  The cloudy, cool pattern over the last week is evident.  To warm the lake, we not only need warmer surface temperatures, but we also need the strong sunshine of May and June.  

Buoys:  South Haven buoy, Port Sheldon buoy, Muskegon buoy, Ludington buoy.   The mid-Lake Michigan buoy isn’t out yet (as of May 4), but should be out soon. 

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