Forecasting the future of Michigan's great lakes - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Forecasting the future of Michigan's great lakes

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MICHIGAN (WJRT) - (05/08/14) - For more than 14 years, lake-shore owners, boat owners, commercial shipping and local businesses have struggled with exceptionally low water levels on the Great Lakes.

Following relatively high lake levels into the late 90s, the decline was abrupt and significant.

It began with the weather phenomenon known as El Nino during the winter of 1997-98. The upwelling of very warm water in the eastern Pacific resulted in a mild, snowless winter across the Great Lakes.

That was immediately followed by a hot, dry summer in 1998.

Evaporation is the most important meteorological factor when it comes to the decline of water levels on a seasonal basis.

After several years of low water, we had another extremely warm year in 2012, and lake levels finally bottomed-out at record low levels in January of 2013.

Since then, the Great Lakes have rebounded very quickly. First, it was heavy rains across the region last spring that resulted in flooding over many parts of our area. All of that water eventually made its way into the lakes. Following that, we experienced a bitterly cold winter with record snowfall, which we are still trying to shake.

In fact, heading into May, Lake Superior had nearly 50 percent ice coverage, while Lake Huron had 10 to 20 percent coverage. Both are records. Of course, in order to have ice, water temperatures have to be cold, and right now, the water temperatures of the Great Lakes are colder than they have ever been this late in the season.

Data just released Monday by the Army Corp of Engineers shows that the level on Lake Huron has risen more than 20 inches in the last 15 months, and for the first time in 15 years, Lake Superior is above its long-term average.

With the rains we have already experienced this spring, and with the current cold water temperatures on the Lakes, the six month forecast for lake levels is good, too. The Corp expects Lake Huron to reach its long-term average level.

When it comes to a long-term forecast, you can expect more ups and downs.

While the forecast for rising lakes levels does look pretty good right now, it does appear that a new El Nino event may be brewing for next winter.
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