Evaporation determines if record water levels continue to wreak havoc

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Sunset on Lake Huron in Caseville, Michigan. Image: Helen Korneffel

By Helen Korneffel

Storm and wave damage this fall may be more prevalent than ever in the Great Lakes.

This year water levels were the highest on record since previous record highs in 1986, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which has tracked them since 1918.

“Even though water levels are falling from their seasonal peak and are following the seasonal cycle, it’s on top of already high water levels, which is a concern,” said Lauren Fry, who oversees Great Lakes water level forecasting and monitoring for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District.

Each of the Great Lakes has an annual rise and fall cycle driven by the timing of precipitation, snow melt and evaporation, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. In the seasonal weather cycle, the fall season is very active with wind and storms.

Fall evaporation is a key determinant of how much damage high water causes to coastlines and lakefront homes, Fry said.

She hopes for cool weather in October and November. When there is a large difference between lake surface temperature and air temperature, evaporation occurs, she said.

That temperature differential and its impact on water levels could have long-term consequences.

“Depending on what the decline ends up looking like, it’s likely that we’ll be at high water levels when we start the period of rising next year,” Fry said. “If we don’t see the strong seasonal decline we’re hoping for, we could see very high water levels again that continue into next year.”

As water levels threaten homeowners and coastlines throughout the year, Fry urges citizens to know what they are up against.

“It is very important for people to know what their individual property is like and how water levels will impact their property,” Fry said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website is https://www.usace.army.mil.

2 thoughts on “Evaporation determines if record water levels continue to wreak havoc

  1. Earthquakes suckingthe lakes dry! There’s one I’ve never heard. I do find it odd the people who hope and wish for consistency – same number of hurricanes each year, same average temperatures each year, pick a lake level and keep it there forever are now hoping for above normal winter temperatures to keep the lakes ice free to accelerate evaporation to keep the lakes from spilling over. We need another earthquake to put the fast drain on things.

  2. I find this interesting that evaporation can lower the lakes levels this much? Back in 1998 September to October lake levels dropped 17in in 20 days??
    There was also an earthquake in northern Ohio that tracked up the Detroit river and st Clair river to Lake Huron! Only michigan and Huron dropped?? Inland lakes we’re unchanged! Straights of Mackinaw the current was flowing strong to the east. Deep underwater aquifers are a real possibility. With the invasive mussels in deep water now plugging water intakes May also be restricting aquifer flow too. There’s a big geological fault in Lake Huron bottom and someday it will be found!!

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