Updated Nov 22, 2017; Posted Nov 22, 2017
(Mlive file photo)
By Mark Torregrossa
We're in a phase where the Great Lakes water levels continue to trend higher each year. Next spring will be no different, the latest forecast shows. With the 2018 spring thaw, we should see the lakes starting their seasonal rise at a higher level than they did in 2017.
The trend of higher each year started with some Great Lakes bottoming at record low levels in 2013. For the last four years each Great Lake has generally been higher than the previous year.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official forecast for the next six months calls for Lake Superior and Lakes Michigan-Huron to be significantly higher in March 2018 compared to March 2017.
Here's the forecast for Lake Superior.
Past and future lake levels for Lake Superior.
I will admit there are a lot of lines and info on these graphs. The key point I want you to see is the lake level at the two black arrows. March 2018 water level forecast for Lake Superior is expected to be four inches higher than March 2017.
This means Lake Superior's multi-year rise in lake level is expected to continue.
Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are expected to gain even more water on last spring.
Past and future lake levels expected for Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.
Lake Michigan and Lake Huron act as one lake due to their connection at the Straits of Mackinac. Lakes Michigan and Huron are expected to be nine inches higher in March 2018 compared to March 2017. That would be a significantly higher start to the seasonal lake level rise, which usually starts in March or April.
Lake Erie and Lake Ontario may be breaking their multi-year rise, at least temporarily. It will be hard for Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron to be adding water and Lake Erie and Lake Ontario losing water.
Past and future levels of Lake Erie.
Lake Erie is expected to come out of winter at about the same level as March 2017.
Lake Ontario was at devastating record high levels this past spring. The good news is Lake Ontario is expected to start the seasonal rise 11 inches lower than March 2017.
Keith Kompoltowicz from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says a new forecast will be issued in December. He states that current lake levels are already tracking higher than the forecast levels issued just one month ago. Kompoltowicz says the December update may have to take forecast water levels even higher.
Kompoltowicz says he is already seeing evidence of increased erosion of Great Lakes shorelines. He also wants to remind us Lake Superior is only four inches lower than the record high in 1985.
The potential for damage along the Great Lakes shorelines is present. Damage will depend on wind direction and strength of the wind as strong storms pass over the Great Lakes.
The current forecast may already be outdated. November's precipitation over the Great Lakes basin has been above average and more than was factored into the current lake level forecast.
Watch for a new lake level forecast in December that could mean even smaller beaches come next summer.