Why fall storms trigger big erosion on the lakeshore

Weather

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Water levels continue to be well above average on Lake Michigan, making fall storms erode even more of our lakeshore than usual.

Fall storm systems often slide in from the west, bringing with them a surge of warm wind from the south and then typically cool wind from the west or northwest.

It’s this northwesterly wind that can wreak the most havoc. Cold air over warm lake waters usually generate the biggest waves each year. This means even though Lake Michigan’s average water level has fallen an inch since last month, the waves that are generated in the early colder season can be substantial. Usually, the most erosion happens on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan during the fall because of these fall storms.

So far this season, there have been two potent fall storms. Each has cost landowners on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan feet of property. Ten to 20 feet of erosion was common along the shoreline from the system that rolled through the week of Oct. 14, with another 10 feet or more lost for some to the system that moved through earlier this week. Some have lost as much as 100 feet of shoreline just this year.

Although September featured a two-inch water level drop on Lake Michigan, this October has been wetter than usual. The entire Great Lakes Water Basin has received 145% of its average precipitation. As of now, Lake Michigan is sitting 14 inches higher than this time last October and 32 inches higher than the standard average for October.

Water levels are projected to fall on Lake Michigan by one inch by late next month.

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