Lake Huron Water Level Updates
We often get asked, "what is happening with the lake levels?!"
This page provides you with up-to-date information and forecasted Lake Huron water levels.
For more information, and up-to-date readings, please refer to:
"Lake Michigan–Huron was steady during the month of December, while it typically declines by 5 cm"
"Lake Michigan–Huron’s monthly-mean level in December was 91 cm above average, 42 cm above last December’s level. This also puts it at the second-highest December level, just 1 cm below the monthly record value of 1986."
"All the lakes started January well above average with Michigan-Huron setting a record high beginning-of-month level for any January in the period of record (1918–2018)"
2020 forecast Conditions
"The likelihood of reaching record levels in the coming months is even higher for Lake MichiganHuron. In fact, it would take drier than average water supplies to prevent a record high level for January. While even average conditions would result in record highs throughout the winter and spring."
What affects lake levels?
Water levels are influenced by:
Natural factors: (MAJOR, changes in metres)
- Evaporation & Ice cover
- Runoff from rivers
- Inflow from upstream lakes
- Natural long-term fluctuations
Human-caused factors: (MINOR, changes in centimetres)
- Water withdrawals
- Water diversion
** The Great Lakes are such a large system, human influences very minimally affect lake levels
HIGH VS. LOW
What do lake level extremes cause?
- Loss of property depths
- Shoreline alteration
- Changes to wetland composition
- Boat access limitations
- Water supplies
- Coastal wetlands and habitat
- Challenges to shipping and boat transportation (e.g. ChiCheemaun)
** information gathered from: https://www.ontario.ca/page/managing-great-lakes-water-levels
ICE COVER Current Conditions
Winter Lake Evaporation
Water evaporating from Lake Huron's surface in winter contributes to lake level changes. "Evaporation from the Great Lakes generally peaks in the fall to early winter months, when the air temperature above the lakes drops, but the water remains relatively warmer and ice-free. The rate of evaporation from the lakes is dependent on a number of factors including wind speed, air temperature, water temperature, and ice cover. Significant evaporation occurs when dry cold air blows over warmer lake water; conditions encountered when air temperatures drop rapidly from above- to below freezing. When air temperatures drop quickly, and the lake is ice-free, watch for the mist above the surface of the lake as evidence that evaporation is occurring." More evaporation throughout the winter can contribute to lower lake levels the following year. Frequent years with low ice cover can insinuate dropping lake levels.
In the second chart below, Ice cover on Lake Huron has been monitored since 1973 by NOAA and Environment and Climate Change Canada. This graph shows a long-term decrease in average ice cover on Lake Huron from ~72% to ~58%.
Ice on the shore
A frozen beach is the first ice feature to form on large deep lakes like Lake Huron. Waves drive slush ice to shore to form an ice foot. "Nearshore ice displaces wave energy lakeward, protecting the beach from wave-induced erosion, yet it may also contribute to erosion. Waves breaking against grounded ice ridges scour the lakebed. The lakebed may be gouged by contact with the keels of ice ridges or “ice islands” moved by the wind... An ice shove or ice push occurs when lake ice, moved by water currents or by wind (blowing over miles of ice), comes into contact with the shore. Ice is shoved up the shore away from the lake. Damage can result if the moving ice contacts structures, bluffs and banks. Ice shoves are unpredictable. The distance the ice moves onshore depends on whether the ice shove is a pile-up or ride-up event."
Quote from: USACE (2005) Living On the Coast.