Lake Michigan Water Level

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jimh
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Lake Michigan Water Level

Postby jimh » Fri May 31, 2019 5:29 pm

For many years I have been using the launch ramp at Northport, Michigan. It's a very nice ramp, and it is very convenient for me to use as it's less than a mile away from where the boat sits on its trailer all summer. On Saturday, May 25, we rode bicycles over to Northport to see the classic car show being held in a park adjacent to the marina. We left the bicycles at the bike-rack in the marina and walked across the trailer parking lot to the car show. The water level at the boat ramp looked quite high.

After about 30-minutes gawking at old cars, I headed back to the bicycle. I got to the launch ramp and discovered the lake level had risen in the past 30-minutes enough to come all the way up the ramp and was now flooding the parking lot. There were two-inches of Lake Michigan covering most of the parking lot. The wind was strong out of the Southeast and it blew some extra water into Northport Bay for a while. I tiptoed around the edge of the parking lot on a slightly elevated portion to get back to my bicycle.

According to forecasts, the lake level is not yet at peak. At the breakwall for the marina, the paved walkway is already underwater for the last 100-feet or so. The parking lot flooding is going to be a nuisance if the lake sustains this high water level all summer. Launching and loading is going to be a bit of a scramble, too.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) says Lake MIchigan is now at 50-inches above chart datum. That is still 11-inches below the modern record level from 1986. The prediction is for 2-inches more water by July 1, 2019.

A few days earlier, a friend put his boat in and moved it to his marina in Suttons Bay. Water temperature away from the shoreline was a balmy 34-degrees-F.

Tacky79
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Re: Lake Michigan Water Level

Postby Tacky79 » Sat Jun 01, 2019 1:40 am

This is such a contrast to the low levels of 2008 and 2013 when I thought we'd never see "normal" levels again.
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ConB
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Re: Lake Michigan Water Level

Postby ConB » Sat Jun 01, 2019 7:54 pm

And keep an extra good eye out for junk floating around the lakes. I've have had many dock sections, logs, and pilings wash up on my beach that left some one else's beach.

Con
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jimh
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Re: Lake Michigan Water Level

Postby jimh » Sun Jun 02, 2019 12:04 pm

Another problem with high-water: at Northport I noticed the harbormaster had the dock boys bailing water out of an enclosure that contained the fuel hoses and shut-off valves for the fuel dispensing pumps at the end of the fuel dock. Because of the high water, this enclosure accumulated some water. Of course, the water and fuel SHOULD be completely isolated, but drying out this enclosure with the valves seemed like a good policy to adopt and maintain. I suspect that when the docks were built and those lines were installed they were several feet above the waterline. Now, maybe not so much freeboard.

Bigbear
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Re: Lake Michigan Water Level

Postby Bigbear » Sun Jun 02, 2019 6:02 pm

Lake Huron levels are similarly high. Just made a trip from Bay City, MI to Hessel Municipal Marina. During the trip fixed docks in Harrisville Municipal Marina and Hammond Bay State Marina have occasionally been underwater this Spring. If the lake levels continues to increase they will be permanently covered for the season.

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Re: Lake Michigan Water Level

Postby jimh » Mon Jun 03, 2019 9:09 am

You'd think that floating docks would be a cure for a Great Lakes marina fighting variation in water level. In Northport's marina the newest docks are floating docks.

Last Saturday Lake Michigan was so high the floating docks were buoyed up against the limiting pipe that prevents them going any higher (and floating away), and the hinged ramps that normally lead DOWN to the floating docks from the seawall were pitched UP and led to a termination about two feet in the air because the combination of the water height and dock height was higher than the hinge point on the ramp.

The limiters on the dock stanchion pilings into the lake bed that are holding them down look like they're welded on, so changing that is going to be a problem. And the ramps going off into mid-air make the docks just about unusable. I don't know how that's going to be solved. These docks were put in about five years ago when the lake level was much lower and close to chart datum.

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Re: Lake Michigan Water Level

Postby dtmackey » Mon Jun 03, 2019 10:26 pm

Being on the ocean the idea of fixed docks is foreign to me, especially with a mean average tide of 9.6' and the occasional new new moon 11' tide swing. Nothing compared to the Bay of Fundy 40' tides.

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opencage
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Re: Lake Michigan Water Level

Postby opencage » Tue Jun 04, 2019 8:26 am

Not quite as important, but I have a feeling this will affect the smallmouth and carp fly fishing in the Grand Traverse bays this summer, too.

jimh
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Re: Lake Michigan Water Level

Postby jimh » Tue Jun 04, 2019 10:14 am

There can be about a six-foot change in the water level in Lake Michigan, but the usual period for the change to occur seem to be about 50-years. It is a bit slower cycle than the normal semi-diurnal tide of the ocean. If the level fluctuated twice a day over six-feet, the marinas would have figured out a solution already. We do get wind-driven changes in water level, and they can sometimes add or subtract a foot of water at the shoreline in a hurry.

At my neighbor's beach, the high water eroded a lot of shoreline and revealed an old survey marker that had been, for years, buried deep in the sand. I think the survey marker was indicating some sort of legal line or limit for the normal high-water shoreline. It is now about a foot underwater and several feet to seaward from the current shoreline.

jimh
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Re: Lake Michigan Water Level

Postby jimh » Wed Aug 28, 2019 4:06 pm

In the last week of August (2019) as predicted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and as historical trends had previously shown, and as many shoreline property owners were hoping, the water level in Lake Michigan seems to have decreased a few inches. My metric for measurement is the launch ramp and parking lot at the Northport Marina.

Lake Michigan water levels have been so high all summer that the portions of the parking lot near the ramp and lake have been submerged in 1 to 3-inches of Lake Michigan for much of the summer. Finally there has been a bit of a decline in water levels, and the lake level has dropped enough so that on most days the parking lot is dry except for a few pockets of water trapped in depressions here and there. You can actually walk to the ramp and get out on the courtesy dock without having to wade through several inches of lake water--not not every day and all day, but some days and some times.

With the right wind directions, duration, and wind speed, the water level can still rise enough to begin to creep into the parking lot, but for the most part it seems the peak water level has occurred, and Lake Michigan should be trending slowly down in level for the next few months.

The USACE says Lake Michigan is down three inches from a month ago. Cf.:

https://www.lre.usace.army.mil/Missions/Great-Lakes-Information/Great-Lakes-Water-Levels/Water-Level-Forecast/Weekly-Great-Lakes-Water-Levels/

Oliphant
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Re: Lake Michigan Water Level

Postby Oliphant » Tue Sep 24, 2019 4:52 pm

jimh wrote:There can be about a six-foot change in the water level in Lake Michigan, but the usual period for the change to occur seem to be about 50-years. It is a bit slower cycle than the normal semi-diurnal tide of the ocean. If the level fluctuated twice a day over six-feet, the marinas would have figured out a solution already. We do get wind-driven changes in water level, and they can sometimes add or subtract a foot of water at the shoreline in a hurry.

At my neighbor's beach, the high water eroded a lot of shoreline and revealed an old survey marker that had been, for years, buried deep in the sand. I think the survey marker was indicating some sort of legal line or limit for the normal high-water shoreline. It is now about a foot underwater and several feet to seaward from the current shoreline.


Good think you're not on Lake Huron in Ontario, for if you were the "indigenous" folks would have surely already replaced the survey stake with a claim stake in your neighbor's front yard with the blessing of the Canadian government, forevermore preventing your neighbor from getting to the water without first buying an access permit..

Don SSDD
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Re: Lake Michigan Water Level

Postby Don SSDD » Sat Sep 28, 2019 8:12 am

Why the extra water in the lake Jim? On the ocean, the rising sea level is due to Artic ice melt, where does this big increase come from?
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Re: Lake Michigan Water Level

Postby jimh » Mon Sep 30, 2019 9:13 am

The water level in the Great Lakes varies with the amount of rain and snow. We had a very cold and snowy Winter, followed by a cold and rainy Spring, followed by a cool Summer with more rain than usual.

A few years ago—maybe 2014—we had one of the coldest winters in 50-years. Lake Superior froze over. Northern Lake Michigan froze over. When the lakes freeze over there is no water evaporation, so the levels tend to rise.

Due to all the cool weather and rain in August the levels did not decline as predicted but actually rose more. There was a frost warning last night for inland counties in northern Michigan.

Lake Michigan is 577-feet above sea level. The rise in sea level is being measured in inches per century, so we are not worried about it here. If you built a million-dollar house on a sand spit barrier island that is only five feet above high tide, maybe you should have thought more carefully about the risk inherent in that location.

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Re: Lake Michigan Water Level

Postby jimh » Wed Oct 23, 2019 9:52 am

Lake Michigan water levels remain high, and the weather pattern of lots of rain continues to feed them. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, precipitation in the Great Lakes basin so far for October is 145-percent above normal for the month.

Lake Michigan is now 14-inches higher than it was one year ago at this time and is 32-inches--almost three feet--above its long-term average for this time of year. Despite the high water, the lake is still 9-inches lower than the all-time high water mark for October set in 1986. The USACE is predicting Lake Michigan will drop 2-inches in the next 30 days. This will be welcomed.

With Fall weather there are more storms. About ten days ago there was a very strong North wind with gusts to 60-MPH. This toppled a lot of trees and created waves large enough to cause some shoreline roads to be closed.

The last week brought three days of very high East wind, and there was more shoreline erosion at our place. About two weeks ago we decided we better move our small beachfront deck to higher ground. That turned out to have been a wise decision. With the strong Easterlies the waves were still breaking on the deck even with it on higher ground.

The marina at Northport is studying a complete overhaul of its dock electrical system. The high water has put most of the dock electrical conduits underwater. The project will cost several hundred-thousand dollars, and it may be financed with a municipal bond.

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Re: Lake Michigan Water Level

Postby jimh » Fri Oct 25, 2019 10:30 am

The NOAA Winter weather forecast for the Great Lakes area calls for equal chance of colder/normal/warmer than average temperatures this winter, but the forecast does predict higher than normal precipitation. If the Great Lakes temperatures are colder than normal and the lakes freeze over (as in 2014), and if the precipitation is higher than normal (as forecasted), both effects will produce higher water levels in 2020.

Cf.: https://www.noaa.gov/media-release/wint ... r-in-north

Don SSDD
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Re: Lake Michigan Water Level

Postby Don SSDD » Sat Oct 26, 2019 9:23 am

[Great Lakes water levels] could head for the levels of 1986 if this keeps up.

Here on the [Nova Scotia] coast, based on my poor memory, our weather seems to be more extreme, periods of no rain followed by a large amount in one storm, high wind events more often, etc. We are also seeing more our ocean water temperatures rising with more southern birds and fish arriving here. In the last 10 years, Lyme disease arrived from the US northeast, carried by ticks which can now survive our warmer winters. I've been treated once and my wife three times for Lyme.

Maybe the weather patterns are also causing more water in Lake Michigan? All this anecdotal evidence is of interest, but we'll see if this keeps happening.

Don
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jimh
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Re: Lake Michigan Water Level

Postby jimh » Tue Feb 18, 2020 12:36 pm

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers chart below shows the observed water levels through February 2020 for Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, and shows predicted water levels for later this year.

USACE_MichiganHuronWaterLevels.png
Fig. 1. USACE water level data for Lake Michigan and Lake Huron as of February 2020.
USACE_MichiganHuronWaterLevels.png (174.31 KiB) Viewed 3219 times


USACE_MichiganHuronWaterLevels.Detail.jpg
Fig. 2. Detail from chart showing predicted high water for 2020 through July.
USACE_MichiganHuronWaterLevels.Detail.jpg (67.33 KiB) Viewed 3214 times


As the chart shows, the present winter water level is now at an historic high (for the period of record). The January 2020 water level has set a new record high, surpassing the prior 1987 mark by about six inches. The predicted summer water levels are trending toward setting new records, surpassing the 1986 high water marks. The local newspaper, the LEELANAU ENTERPRISE, reports:

...the Village of Northport is hoping that a state grant will help fund an estimated $597,849 marina project needed this spring to keep its harbor house and fuel pumps above water.


If the USACE predicted high water range hits their 1.6-meter level, that will be 63-inches (5-feet 3-inches) above chart datum.

The period of record that is reflected in the all-time high-water or low-water data is from 1819 onward. There are older records and geologic data that show much higher high-water marks:

By studying beach ridges along Lake Michigan, as well as radiocarbon dating of soil core samples, scientists have developed a 4,700 year record of Lake Michigan-Huron water levels. From analyzing this data, scientists identified a general rise and fall cycle that lasts approximately 120-200 years. They also learned that there is a shorter-term fluctuation from 29-38 years (averaging about 32 years) that occurs within the longer cycle.

Source: https://www.watershedcouncil.org/current-historic-and-projected.html

The same report also notes:

In general, the Great Lakes system experienced extremely low levels in the late 1920s, mid-1930s, and the mid-1960s. Water levels climbed during the late 1960s and 1970s. Lake levels were above average for some time reaching record highs in the late 1980s. The record high for Lake Michigan-Huron was recorded in October of 1986 at 582.3 feet, IGLD 1985. Between 1999-2014, the lakes experienced an unprecedented period when water levels for Lake Michigan-Huron and Superior fell below their long-term average for 15 years. In January 2013, Lake Michigan-Huron set an all-time record low of 576.02 feet IGLD 1985, surpassing the previous record low of 576.05 feet from March of 1964.


A plot of data (also in the above linked source) going back more than 3,000-years shows much higher water levels existed in c.2500 B.C. along with other higher-than-present peaks in 300 to 500 A.D. and around 1100 A.D.

5931624_9_orig.jpg
Fig. 3. Plot of historic estimated water levels for Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, going back 4,500-years, from watershedcouncil.org website; originally from U.S. Department of the Interior, thus in the public use.
5931624_9_orig.jpg (155.35 KiB) Viewed 3207 times

ConB
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Re: Lake Michigan Water Level

Postby ConB » Tue Feb 18, 2020 7:16 pm

Very interesting. I continue to believe the earths climate has always been changing.
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jimh
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Re: Lake Michigan Water Level

Postby jimh » Sun Apr 19, 2020 9:16 am

The USACE has released data about Lake Michigan water levels and their predictions for the coming months. An excerpt from the USACE graph:

2020lakeMichigan_.png
Fig. 4. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers observed and predicted water levels as of April 2020 for Lake Michigan-Lake Huron in meters above chart datum. The RED line is actual measured data. The GREEN line is predicted levels.
2020lakeMichigan_.png (17.25 KiB) Viewed 419 times


Water level in Lake Michigan peaked last year in July, then declined in August through December, remaining below record levels. The water level drop was slight and less than typical for Fall and Winter. As a result, in January 2020 new record high water levels have been set (for the so-called "period of record" that began in 1819, about 201-years ago). Predictions for the coming months show the usual upward trend, which will also set new high water level records.

Since I have a particular focus on Lake Michigan water level relative to the top of the launch ramp at Northport, the USACE predictions are of great interest to me. Anytime the lake level is 1.35-meters above datum, the lake begins flow over the top of the launch ramp and into the parking lot, which is set on nearly level ground. I may have to buy waders just to get to the ramp.

The USACE also remarked:

    Great Lakes Basin Hydrology
    March 2020

    According to preliminary estimates, precipitation for the Great Lakes basin was above average in March. The
    individual lakes basins experienced precipitation that was near to above average with the Lake Erie basin receiving
    the most precipitation, which was 121% of average. Water supplies for all of the lakes were above average in March.
    The higher than average water supply and high lake levels also contributed to outflows being above average. The
    preliminary outflow estimates through the St. Clair River, Detroit River, Niagara River, and the St. Lawrence River
    were at record highs for the month of March.

    New record high monthly mean water levels were set on Lakes Michigan-Huron, St. Clair, and Erie in March 2020.
    All three lakes surpassed their previous records set in 1986. Lakes Superior and Michigan-Huron declined from
    February to March by 3 inches and 1 inch, respectively. However, both lakes are forecast to begin their seasonal
    rise this month. Lakes St. Clair, Erie, and Ontario continued their seasonal rise from February to March and all rose
    about 2 inches. All three of these lakes are forecast to continue their seasonal rise through the spring.