Great Lakes Water Levels, Ice Extent and News


The water levels of the Great Lakes are significantly lower than one year ago with the overall drier than average pattern lasting through much of the rest of April. Top pic. is Chicago on Friday (4/16) with low clouds obscuring the tallest skyscrapers in Chicago.

Graph of the Water Level of Lake Superior

The water level of Lake Superior rose 4″ in the last month, due to snowmelt mainly in Canada. The level is down 5″ in the last year. It’s 9″ above the April average level, but 9″ lower than the highest April level recorded back in 1986.

Graph of the Water Level of Lake Michigan/Huron

The water level of Lake Michigan/Huron was up 1″ in the last month. However, it’s down a whopping 13″ year-to-year (that represents a loss of 5.05 trillion gallons of water in Lake Michigan and 5.20 trillion gallons in Lake Huron!). The lake is 22″ above the average April level and 13″ below the highest April level set last year.

Graph of the Water Level of Lake St. Clair
Graph of the Watetr Level of Lake Erie

The water level of Lake Erie is up 2″ in the last month, but down a whopping 17″ year-to-year. The level is 16″ above the average April level.

The level of Lake Ontario is up 5″ in the last month, but down 29″ in the last year. The level is 11″ below the average April level an 41″ below the highest April level set in 1973. There is concern about LOW water levels on Lake Ontario.

International Border at S. Ste. Marie Sunday PM 4/18

This is a screen grab sfrom the U.S./Canada International Border – Sunday 4/18. No traffic. The website says: “…the international border between Canada and the U.S. remains closed.”

All the rivers that connect the Great Lakes have above average flow, but levels are lower than last year at this time. Most rivers that empty into the Great Lakes currently have below average flow.

The St. Marys River at S. Ste. Marie has a flow of 67,200 cubic feet per second. That’s down quite a bit in the past year, when at times it was over 100,000 cfs. The average flow is 63,300 cfs, so it’s only a little above that.

The St. Clair River at Port Huron has a flow of 228,000 cfs, compared to an average flow of 197,000 cfs. the Detroit River at Detroit has a flow of 237,000 cfs, compared to an average flow of 200,000 cfs.

The map above shows the Grand River Watershed, which covers all or part of 19 counties. The river begins in Hillsdale County. The Grand River in Grand Rapids has a flow of 3,940 cfs, compared to an average of 5,709 cfs. That’s just 68% of average flow for late April.

The St. Joseph River has a flow of 2,850 cfs, compared to an average flow of 5,150 cfs (55% of average flow). The Kalamazoo River at Comstock has a flow of 858 cfs, compared to an average flow of 1,230 cfs. That’s 70% of average flow. The Muskegon River at Croton has a flow of 1,500 cfs, compared to an average flow of 2,950 cfs and that is just 51% of average flow.

The Tittabawassee River at Midland has a flow of 1,430 cfs, compared to an average flow of 2,650 cfs and the Fox River at Appleton WI has a flow of 6,440 cfs compared to an average flow of 6,590 cfs.

Lakefront homeowners happy about falling water levels.

Great Lakes ice extent Sunday April 18

The only ice left in the Great Lakes is in Black Bay and Nipigon Bay of Lake Superior.

MODIS Lake Superior satellite picture from Saturday April 17

This satellite picture of Lake Superior was taken Saturday 4/17. You can see ice left in Black Bay and Nipigon Bay through the thin cirrus clouds. Note the band of low cumulus along the west shore of the lake north of Duluth where the lake breeze moved inland and created surface convergence. Probably the same thing going on east of Duluth in NW Wisconsin.

MODIS Satellite Picture of Lake Michigan

This is the Lake Michigan satellite picture from Sunday 4/18. We were in the right spot with clouds on he other side of the lake and lots of sun over most of West Michigan. See how many features you can pick out, like the sand dunes at Silver Lake, north of Ludington and at Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore. Can you find Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Houghton and Higgins Lakes? Note: Green Bay is the largest freshwater estuary in the world.

GREAT LAKES NEWS: The Duck Stamp. They eat invasive mussels. A big fight in Lansing over fishing regulations. Muskrats love fluctuating water levels. Lake Erie perch population crash. Sturgeon showing up in the Milwaukee River. How the Erie Canal was built. Meteotsunamis on Lake Michigan. Scientists document Ludington meteotsunami. Historic sailing on the Detroit River. Sewers getting clogged.

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