Another year of lower water levels and wider beaches for the Great Lakes region.
July water levels in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are down more than 2 feet from 2020, a year when waves devoured beloved stretches of sandy coastline. The other Great Lakes, with the exception of Lake Ontario, are also declining.
According to Keith Kompoltowicz, chief of the US Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District Watershed hydrology section, Lake Michigan water levels are expected to remain well below 2020 levels for the next six months.
“There is no such thing as a perfect water level,” Kompoltowicz said. “I can say that during the recent record highs, there was a lot of erosion and property damage, as well as a lot of concerns about houses collapsing into the Lake.”
Lake Michigan set a string of monthly records in 2020, hovering near the 1986 high. Throughout history, highs and lows have come and gone, and climate change may increase the variability between the swings.
Water levels have dropped as a result of less rain and snow.
According to Lauren Fry, a physical scientist at NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, rainfall on Lake Michigan and Lake Huron in July was about 82% of the average, or slightly less than normal.
In July, Lake Michigan was 8 inches above average but 26 inches below the high in 2020. In other months, the lake was above average but fell short of the records set in 2020 and 1986. Lake Michigan is expected to remain roughly 8 inches above average for the next six months, according to the six-month forecast.
According to Kompoltowicz, the 2020 high followed several years of extremely wet conditions on the Great Lakes, some of which were record-breaking. The following year, 2020, was drier, allowing lake levels to fall in 2021, according to Kompoltowicz.
“In 2022, we’re seeing more average conditions, and the lake level has responded in the way we’d expect: a nice, healthy seasonal rise in spring,” he explained.