Experts: Climate primary factor on lake levels

Placing water retention structures in the St. Clair River may not be enough to counteract the effects of a warming climate and raise Lakes Huron and Michigan to their normal levels, experts said Monday.
Associated Press
Sep 10, 2013


As water surface temperatures and evaporation rates continue to rise, low water is likely to be a long-term problem despite significant improvement this year following heavy snows in winter and a rainy spring, according to testimony during the annual meeting of the Great Lakes Commission.

“Water levels go up and down,” said Scudder Mackey, coastal management chief with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. “It’s a natural process, something that we have to learn to live with.”

Levels have been mostly below normal on all five Great Lakes since the late 1990s, but the drop-off has been most severe on Huron and Michigan, which scientists consider one lake because they are connected.

Huron-Michigan has jumped 20 inches since January, exceeding its usual seasonal rise, said Keith Kompoltowicz, a meteorologist with the Detroit office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Still, it remains 17 inches below its long-term average. Lake Superior is also slightly below its long-term average, while Lakes Erie and Ontario have exceeded theirs.

Groups representing shoreline interests in Lake Huron, particularly in sprawling Georgian Bay, say climate isn’t the only reason water there is extraordinarily low. They blame dredging, gravel mining and other activities that eroded the floor of the St. Clair River on Huron’s southern end, accelerating the flow toward Lake Erie.

Studies have shown those actions caused Huron and Michigan to fall 10 to 16 inches. Some groups put the loss at 20 inches.

In April, the International Joint Commission — which advises the U.S. and Canada about the Great Lakes and other shared waters — recommended a study of installing structures resembling underwater speed bumps in the St. Clair that could raise Huron and Michigan by 5 to 10 inches. Neither federal government has acted on the proposal.

A panel discussion before the Great Lakes commission, which represents states and Canadian provinces in the region, revealed skepticism about the idea.

“Lows on Lakes Michigan and Huron may remain if we have increased evaporation and less precipitation, even if we put in compensating structures,” said Mackey, who participated in the International Joint Commission study.

It could take up to 25 years to plan, design and build the structures and another decade for them to boost levels as much as hoped, said Deborah Lee, regional business director for the Army corps. In the meantime, they could rise or fall on their own.

“We can’t predict what the effects of climate will be with the accuracy to make these kinds of decisions,” Lee said.

Roger Gauthier, chairman of a group called Restore Our Water International, which favors regulating the lake levels, said structures could be installed much faster than Lee predicted. Once in, they could boost Huron-Michigan 60 percent within three years, he said.

“We need to ... be able to act in a time frame that treats this like a crisis,” he said.

Trying to regulate Huron-Michigan would require a difficult balancing act among competing interests, said Daniel Injerd of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Gauthier countered that all would benefit from more stable and reliable levels.



Now hold on a minute. Didn't we just hear how within a few years (Ok, maybe the next 1,000 years) NYC was going to be underwater because the polar ice caps were melting due to global warming (I mean climate change)?

Maybe the scientists need to get it straight before they make forecasts or make excuses for normal CLIMATE CYCLES.

The Bizness

It still is a very real possibility, you have to remember the Great Lakes are on average around 590 Feet above sea level, so places just a couple meters above sea level may be covered with water the Great Lakes are plenty high enough.


Actually, about 98% of scientists ARE I agreement that mankind is accelerating climate change. The other 2% are paid by conservative organizations or Big Oil, who have a vested interest in denying that climate change is real. No climatology experts were mentioned or quoted in this article, only a local Dept. of Natural Resources official. So, to imply that the jury is still out among the experts when it comes to climate change is, in a word, false.

Here's a hint: for reliable information on something science-related, listen to a scientific expert. Anyone else is substituting opinion for knowledge.


The remaining 98% are heavily invested in green energy firms getting all that Obama money or in the Chicago board of Carbon Trading poised to make billions off of carbon trading coming soon if we leave Obozo off to finish his agenda.


When in doubt, just follow the money!!!!


Re: "the experts"

And the fallacy is that "experts" are never wrong.

The hurricane "experts":

"This year, overall storm activity in the Atlantic — an index that combines number and strength — is about one-fifth the average. That's despite warmer-than-normal seas, which usually fuel storms."


If it wasn't for Earth's cyclical warming and cooling, the Great Lakes wouldn't even exist.


Not really sure that we had a "warming climate" this summer. Quite the contrary I believe.

The Bizness

July was the 6th highest global land and ocean surfaces temperature since records began and was 1.1F higher than the 20th century ever.

That is besides the point, you are talking about weather in your statement. Climate is not one day, week, month, or years worth of data. Climate is averages of multiples years worth of data, typically around 30 years.


Re: "July was the 6th highest global land and ocean surfaces temperature"

And the "correct" avg. temp of the Earth's surface is what?

Ya know, on "average" the Great Lakes never freeze.

AJ Oliver

Yes, some people do not get that climate is not the same thing as weather.


The climate is responsible for the rising and falling lake levels. The climate is an ever evolving process, we can expect highs and lows, but we can't say when and how much. So we humans will adapt and get our water from other places. Nothing new.


Yep! One good volcanic eruption will blow all those CO2 and SO2 AGW models to h*ll.

"Volcano eruption theory gains backing in dinosaur extinction":

Dinosaurs were the MOST successful species EVER to live on Earth. Hard to believe that they killed themselves off.

Rising CO2 levels have also been observed on Mars. Evidence of an underground industrial Martian civilization?


"Rising CO2 levels have also been observed on Mars. Evidence of an underground industrial Martian civilization?"

...............and the moon is made of green cheese.


And the Man in the Moon is real as well.


The good thing about science is that it's true, regardless of whether or not you believe in it.
-Neil DeGrasse Tyson, American astrophysicist

Pterocarya frax...

One of my all time favorite quotes. Thanks.

Stop It

Someone would have to explain to me the difference of a belief or theory before I swallow anything different than "some science" is just a religious belief and therefore, unprovable as the existence of god.

Stop It

Give me a bible in one hand and a freakin' whole crap load of books on the Big Bang theory in the other. There is no proof of either being as what is written.