Great Lakes Water Levels Update 1/24

Bill’s Blog

Posted: Jan 24, 2020 / 02:14 PM EST Updated: Jan 24, 2020 / 03:24 PM EST

white river township house fallen off bluff

This cottage near Montague toppled off a bluff alongside Lake Michigan because of erosion. (Jan. 8, 2020)

Great Lakes water levels remain very high, with Lake Michigan, Lake Huron and possibly Lake Superior poised to set record high levels for the month of January.

The graphs below are plots of the 12-month daily lake levels (blue) compared with last year’s levels (black) and last year’s annual average (dark red). The monthly averages are shown as a step plot through the daily averages. Plotted in the background are the coordinated (official) averages (green), record highs (cyan), and record lows (brown) per month as documented here along with additional water level data. Daily levels are from each lake’s master gauge, produced by NOAA/NOS/CO-OPS.

Graph of the Water Level of Lake Superior

The water level of Lake Superior is unchanged in the last month, up 4″ in the past year and is now 15″ above the January average. The lake at the moment is tied with Jan. 1986 for highest January water level ever. Snowfall has been above average this winter in Upper Michigan. Marquette has had 122″ of snow this winter, as of early Fri. AM (1/24) and that’s 16.5″ above average. Several locations (Mt. Horace Greely, Tamarack…) have already topped 200 inches this winter.

Graph of the Water Level of Lake Michigan-Huron

The water level of Lake Michigan-Huron (one lake for lake level purposes) is up 3″ in the last month. This is due to high runoff from Lower Michigan Rivers due to significantly above average precipitation. This is not good news. This is a time when lake levels should be trending downward. Lake Michigan-Huron is also 20″ higher than it was a year ago and 39″ higher than the January average. The lake is 5″ higher than the previous January record high level set in 1987.

Graph of the Water Level of Lake Erie

The water level of Lake Erie is up 6″ in the last month. I don’t know for sure, but that looks like an unprecedented rise for the month of January. The lake is up 8″ year-to-year and is now 32″ above the January average level. The level is 2″ below the record January level set in 1987.

Graph of the Water Level of Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario has gone up 3″ in the last month. It’s up 8″ in the last year and is now 20″ higher than the January average. It’s still 3″ below the highest January level set in 1946.

Graph of the Water Level of Lake St. Clair

The water level of Lake St. Clair is up 4″ in the last month and up a whopping 21″ in the last year. It’s 37″ above the January average and only 1″ below the highest January level set in 1986.

The Manitoulin going through the Soo Locks in Winter

All the rivers that connect the Great Lakes have significantly above average flow. The St. Mary’s River that flows from Lake Superior down into Lake Huron has a flow of 89,000 cubic feet per second. The St. Clair River at Port Huron has a flow of 254,000 cfs, compared to an average Jan. flow of 159,000 cfs. That’s 160% of average flow. The Detroit River at Detroit has a flow of 267 cfs, compared to an average flow of 165 cfs. That’s 162% of average flow. That’s a lot of water.

Great Lakes Ice Cover 1/23

Great Lakes ice cover is near the satellite-era low with only 10.3% of the lakes covered by ice. There was a significant increase in ice over the past 10 days on smaller Lake St. Clair. Relatively warm air will keep ice extent low into early February.

GREAT LAKES NEWS: Uncharted territory – tracking high water on the Grand River. Lake Michigan reaching record January water level. Large sinkhole caused by erosion closes Michigan road. Marinas brace for even higher water levels. Lake Michigan home falls off the bluff. Sea wall helps to fight erosion. Tension between homeowners and regulators. Lakeshore road in danger of being washed away. Watching the big waves on Lake Michigan. Fighting back with amphibious dump truck and boulders. Rising waters destroy merchandise at SW MI business.

MORE NEWS: Great Lakes Naval base put on lockdown – also vehicle fire. More Great Lakes cruises will start in 2022. Would you like to sail the Great Lakes this summer on a tall ship? Residents trying to move homes away from shore. Ice safety on the Great Lakes. 97 million dollar modernization.