Lake Superior water levels nearing monthly record highs

Shoreline erosion and coastal damages likely. Water will also make its way down through the other Great Lakes, too.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Monthly forecasts for Great Lakes levels in February 2018 have just been released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Many people are keeping a close eye on current lake levels and future predictions, particularly for Lake Superior. The preliminary data just in for January 2018, show Lake Superior just set the second highest monthly record level, a mere 2 inches below its all-time record for the monthly average January (record set in 1986). The recently released forecast also indicates a high probability Lake Superior could be within 2 inches of its all-time record high levels for every one of the next six months. Put simply, there is a lot of water in Lake Superior and all of that water will eventually make its way through the other Great Lakes.

100 years of data

Also, 2018 marks the centennial year of accurate lake level measurements from the series of binational gaging stations. The measurements for Lake Superior are taken in Duluth, Minn.; Marquette, Mich.; Pt. Iroquois, Mich.; Thunder Bay and Michipicoten, Ontario. There are now 100 years of coordinated data ­—this geographically dispersed gaging network accounts for seiches and provides excellent information – and thus 100 January monthly averages.

Isn’t Lake Superior’s water level controlled? 

The International Lake Superior Board of Control has a Regulation Plan 2012 and is responsible for regulating the outflow and control works in the St. Mary’s River. This Board has been in place since 1914 and has compensating works which allow for some limited variation. This plan must meet multiple objectives including hydropower; municipal and industrial water supply, navigation through the locks, and maintaining a minimum flow for protection of fish habitat in the St. Mary’s River. The January 2018 control board update states:

In consideration of the continuing high water levels in the upper Great Lakes, the International Lake Superior Board of Control, under authority granted to it by the International Joint Commission (IJC), will continue to release outflows of up to 2,510 cubic metres per second (m3/s) through the winter months. This flow is 100 m3/s more than the normal winter maximum prescribed by Regulation Plan 2012. Actual outflows may vary depending on hydrologic and ice conditions, as well as maintenance activities at the hydropower plants on the St. Mary’s River, all of which have been directed to flow at their maximum available capacity.” 

Additionally, the Board noted:''

“The high levels coupled with strong winds and waves have resulted in shoreline erosion and coastal damages across the upper Great Lakes system. As lake ice begins to form this may provide a level of protection to some areas of the shoreline, but additional shoreline erosion and coastal damages may occur this winter should active weather continue.”

System snow in Lake Superior impacts the spring seasonal rise as the snow turns into liquid water. We’re still in the thick of winter so time will tell if the 2018 seasonal rises are low, average, or high. Regardless of how much changes over the next few months, notable shoreline erosion and coastal damages can be expected on Lake Superior shores. (View above image)

Tools to help visualize changes

One tool for shoreline owners and other interests is the Great Lakes Shoreview risk assessment tool (http://www.greatlakesshoreviewer.org/#/great-lakes). This tool, funded by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Office of the Great Lakes, is a web-based mapping tool that shows photos from the Lake Superior shoreline, some nearshore LIDAR data, and some risk rankings.

One other tool to note is the NOAA Lake Levels Viewer tool. Similarly, this web-based mapping tool allows users to artificially fluctuate levels up or down and see impacts on the shore. The tool is found on NOAA’s Digital Coast website at https://coast.noaa.gov/llv/. Select the lake you are interested in, zoom to your geographic area, and use the legend bar to vary the lake levels. You will see impacts on the screen.

It has been a bit of a coastal dynamics wild ride, just 5 years ago all-time record-low lake levels were noted in some of the Great Lakes; now we’re dealing with almost all time highs. Keep your seat belts buckled!

Contact Mark Breederland, Michigan State University Extension Sea Grant if you want more information on living with the ever-changing dynamic coastlines of the Great Lakes.

Great Lakes waves can make lake viewing dangerous

Don’t get swept away this winter while sightseeing near the Great Lakes.

Waves on Lake Michigan crash over nearshore structures.  Photo: Justin Selden, Michigan State University Extension

Waves on Lake Michigan crash over nearshore structures. Photo: Justin Selden, Michigan State University Extension

Winter is a spectacular time to visit Great Lakes shorelines. Intense storms lead to massive waves crashing over breakwaters and lighthouses with stunning dark skies as backdrops. While these waves and weather make for interesting viewing, they can also be life threatening.

Drownings occur in the Great Lakes every year. According to the Great Lakes Surf and Rescue Project, at least 99 people drowned in the Great Lakes in 2016. Many of these deaths happen when people swimming end up in dangerous currents such as rip or structural-caused currents. Other drownings happen because of boating or kayaking accidents. And several deaths each year occur when people are blown or washed off breakwaters, docks, cliffs and other similar nearshore structures.

The months of October, November and December are when extremely windy days will kick up massive waves across all five of the Great Lakes. On Oct. 24, 2017, one such storm swept across the northern Great Lakes. Buoys run by the Great Lakes Observation System (GLOS), a critical Great Lakes information-collecting network, recorded record wave height on Lake Superior with waves reaching an incredible 28.8 feet in height. With the waves came many sightseers eager to witness the display of force by the lake. Unfortunately, two people observing from a popular cliff-like rock formation near Marquette were swept into the lake and lost their lives.

Lake Superior isn’t the only lake where high winds and crashing waves have resulted in the loss of life. Fishermen on Lake Michigan standing on local breakwaters have been swept away or fallen into the water under high wind and icy conditions. Some folks walking or jogging along shorelines near Chicago have also fallen into the lake when large waves washed over them. The mix of high waves, strong winds, and often icy conditions can make piers, nearshore cliffs and breakwalls all dangerous structures.

Preventing these drownings in the Great Lakes can be as easy as checking the weather report. Any month of the year there is the potential for high waves in the Great Lakes. If you are headed to a Great Lakes shoreline to walk out on a breakwater, climb some nearshore rocks, or jog along a lakeshore path, it’s important to know what the predicted wave and wind patterns will be for the day. If the waves and winds will be high, then stay away from these types of areas. Be aware that icy buildups can increase your risk of falling in even on relatively calm days. It’s better to watch waves and the water from a safe distance, than to risk losing it all.

Are Great Lakes water levels headed up in 2018?

November forecast suggest higher levels heading into next year.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Fall of 2017 was a very wet season in the Great Lakes region. According to the US Army Corps of Engineers, basin-wide precipitation was well above normal for all of the Great Lakes during October 2017. In fact, these estimates put the monthly precipitation at 118 percent of average for Lake Superior, 161 percent of average for Lakes Michigan/Huron, 107 percent of average for Lake Erie, and 170 percent  of average for Lake Ontario. Accordingly, while the lakes generally continue seasonal decline into winter, the rate of this decline has been much more gradual.

What impact has this high precipitation had in various lakes? In late October all the Great Lakes rose slightly from the typical pattern (that is lower at the end of the month than at the beginning). Currently in mid-November, Lake Superior is hovering around its October average when it typically is a bit lower in November. Lake Michigan and Huron showed over an inch bump up around Oct. 24, 2017 – over 780 billion gallons of water across this 45,300 square mile surface area of the earth. Net basin supply estimates (the net result of precipitation falling on the lake, runoff from precipitation falling on the land which flows to the lake, and evaporation from the lake [negative net basin supply denotes evaporation exceeded runoff and precipitation]) and the outflow from the upstream lake were all above average during October.

Evaporation a factor

We know evaporation is a huge factor in lake level prediction and yet it is extremely hard to measure. The NOAA Great Lakes Research Lab and The Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research hosted a recent webinar, “Ten Years of the Great Lakes Evaporation Network: Progress Made and Opportunities for the Future” by Dr. Christopher Spence, research hydrologist from Environment and Climate Change Canada. The work done over the past decade is helpful to try to understand big and smaller years of evaporation and yet recognizes significant complexity in locating instruments on the Great Lakes. Some research-based information confirms that typically, the largest evaporation over the lakes occurs in November and December, when the lakes are still warm and the cold arctic air blasts come over the lakes.

Graphic showing lake level monthly mean averages

Graphic showing lake level monthly mean averages. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The main coordinated model for Great Lakes water levels used by the US Army Corps of Engineers doesn’t project out beyond 6 months. However, a newer product The Great Lakes Water Level Outlook, details that the high water levels of this year were accompanied by a strong seasonal rise due to wet spring conditions and high net basin supplies to the lakes. It also compares to some years when there were periods of positive net basin supply during the years 1972-1973, 1985-1986, and 1996-1997 – three scenarios representing periods of high water levels and high net basin supply throughout the year across the Great Lakes basin.

Snowpack key

Considering these scenarios, it is quite possible 2018 may be a high water year in several of the Great Lakes. One thing to watch for over the winter is the amount of system snowpack over the Lake Superior basin. Lake-effect snows are considered net-system losses (they come back long-term) but system snow pack is usually measured in March by NOAA’s National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center.  NOAA is trying to determine how much liquid water is “locked up” in the frozen snowpack, technically called snow-water equivalent. Fixed wing aircraft flying with remote sensing gamma radiation sensors at about 500 feet above the ground around the Lake Superior basin can give good estimates of snowpack. Naturally occurring gamma radiation is released from the soil under snowcover and can indicate snowdepth.

Higher lake levels impacts shoreline erosion; fall is typically the time of year for sustained storms. In fact, a Lake Superior buoy north of Marquette, Mich., measured a 28.8 foot wave at Granite Island on Oct. 24, 2017 – the highest wave ever recorded by modern buoy records (10-30 years). Significant erosion has been reported near Whitefish Point. Yet the rise and fall of the Great Lakes is still normal and key for nearshore wetland ecological health and nearshore habitat.

Here’s an overall lake level synopsis – higher levels but not all time highs. Lake Superior is 13” above its long-term average for October and 7” higher than 2016. Lake Michigan/Huron is 19” above its long term average for October and 9” above 2016. Let’s keep an eye on system snow in 2017-2018 and see what evaporative losses show – but it appears we might well be in for a higher season in 2018.

Please contact Extension educator Mark Breederland, breederl@msu.edu, for more information on living with the ever-changing dynamic coastlines of the Great Lakes.

May, June showers bring higher Great Lake water levels for summer 2017

Great Lake levels are up with Lake Ontario reaching an all-time high.

Lake Ontario reached an all-time record high in May 2017, resulting in impacts to coastal homeowners and more. High Water Event, New York. Photo: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Public Affairs

Lake Ontario reached an all-time record high in May 2017, resulting in impacts to coastal homeowners and more. High Water Event, New York. Photo: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Public Affairs

Have you seen the news on high lake levels on Lake Ontario? Lake Ontario reached all-time record highs in May 2017, resulting in significant coastal community, road, infrastructure and homeowner impacts. Currently the weekly Lake Ontario levels show Lake Ontario is about 30 inches higher than this time last year and 28” above the long term average in June. Colleagues with New York Sea Grant Extension are aiding in this crisis, using a scientific survey to determine impacts of the high water levels. The large rise can be attributed to very high precipitation on the basin, getting almost double the average precipitation as normal.

Back in Michigan, significant rain storms happened in late June 2017, particularly impacting the Saginaw Bay area. The United States Army Corps of Engineers estimates that Lakes Michigan-Huron rose a full 6 inches from April to May during the spring rise and had above average water supplies coming into the system. Lakes Michigan-Huron are forecast to be on the high side of average, about 15 inches above the long term average.

Lake Superior also rose about 6 inches during seasonal rise in May, being about 8 inches above the long term average and about 2” higher than in 2016. Precipitation and net basin supply was above average, with outflows above average through the St. Marys River.

Lake Erie is about 19” above its long term average and 9” above May 2016 levels and the most recent predictions are that it has reached the peak water level for 2017 and will decline about 3” over the next month.

As we head further into summer 2017, visitors to the beaches and boat launch ramps will notice these somewhat higher lake levels. Other great tools to check lake levels include the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory’s  online Great Lakes Water Level Dashboard.

It is amazing to think back of just about 5 years ago to the fall/winter of 2012/2013. Lake Michigan/Huron actually reached the record low level ever recorded in January 2013, in close to 100 years of accurate measurements. The strong rebound from these record lows is unprecedented in our history of measurements.

This summer season is well upon us and it will be interesting to see if levels follow the typical pattern of seasonal decline or if strong precipitation drives them further up. No matter what, be careful in all your water access – swim with flotation devices; be extra careful at launch ramps; and enjoy the dynamic coast of these freshwater seas.

Michigan Sea Grant storm project seeks to help communities prepare for future extreme storms

Mid-Michigan’s 2017 storm reminiscent of the 1986 Great Flood.

Flooded houses are shown in Bangor Township

Flooded houses are shown in Bangor Township. Photo: Kip Cronk | Michigan Sea Grant

On June 22 and 23, 2017 mid-Michigan was hit by a large rain event. The storm dropped 7.29 inches of rain in Mount Pleasant, 6 inches in Midland, and 3.08 inches in Bay City.

Pictures of damage in Bay, Isabella, Saginaw, and Midland counties show flooded roads, washed out culverts, damaged bridges, flooded homes, businesses, and flooded agricultural fields. Bay, Isabella and Midland counties were declared states of emergency allowing them to receive help from the state. The damages from this storm are as yet, unknown, but the 1986 Flood in the Saginaw Bay area caused about $500 million in damages.

Michigan Sea Grant and its partners have been working on a project to bring heightened awareness of extreme storms and to provide information to communities on preparing for such storms. While these suggestions are too late to help with this severe storm, there are actions communities might consider for the future in order to lessen the effects of extreme storms.

Preserve wetlands

One of the crucial functions of a wetland area is to hold excess water during storm events and let it go slowly, usually through evaporation or flowing down into the ground water table. Wetlands can hold a lot of water and that can mitigate storm impacts. This Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Wetlands Map Viewer helps identify wetland areas around the state­­.

Green infrastructure

Many developments are designed with hard materials that rain quickly runs off from and into rivers and combined storm sewers. One way to help mitigate the impact of extreme storms is to hold water on our properties in productive ways, sort of like wetlands. Rain gardens, bioswales (similar to rain gardens but designed to handle a larger amount of water), permeable pavers, green roofs, and green spaces are all ways that communities can help hold back water and reduce runoff. The Environmental Protection Agency offers a website with information to developing green infrastructure.

Protect floodplains

Rivers and streams can only hold so much water until the water flows over the bank and into an area’s natural floodplain. Leaving floodplains undeveloped is one way to store this water. Development in these areas removes the floodplain space and that water must go somewhere, which increases the impact elsewhere.

Properly construct culverts, bridges

During extreme storm events culverts and bridges are often damaged as they may not be large enough to withstand for the water overflow. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has a minor permit category for large culverts that require the structure to be built to several specific criteria including spanning a minimum of bankfull width.

Flood Insurance

Many people don’t realize they may need flood insurance. The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides insurance to property owners and also encourages communities to adopt floodplain management regulations.

House surrounded by water

The Saginaw Bay watershed is particularly vulnerable to storm hazards because of the region’s unique topography and land-use patterns. A complex network made up of 7,000 miles of rivers and streams, the Saginaw Bay watershed drains roughly 15 percent of the state of Michigan. This massive watershed includes both urban and agricultural lands. Because the watershed covers such a large flat area, extreme storm impacts are quickly magnified. Communities within the Saginaw Bay watershed face a major challenge in adapting to increased frequency and intensity of storm events. The website 1986flood.com shows the impact this storm had on the area and offers additional ways to prepare for extreme storms.

Having some of these infrastructure designs and practices in place may not be enough to stop the impact of a 7-inch rain event, but it could help mitigate the impacts during storm events. Michigan Sea Grant plans to continue outreach and education and will be providing webinars and a workshop in the fall of 2017 to help communities assess their coastal storm resiliency planning needs.

Sustainable Small Harbors Webinar

Event Date: 5/8/2017

Michigan Sea Grant to host webinar about Sustainable Small Harbors project findings and next steps

On May 8 at 2–3:30 p.m. EDT, Michigan Sea Grant will host a webinar titled, “The Sustainable Small Harbors Project: Helping coastal communities re-imagine their waterfront.”

This webinar will provide an overview of the Sustainable Small Harbors project, an initiative to boost the long-term well-being of Michigan’s coastal communities. All people involved in coastal communities, both in and outside of Michigan, are invited to participate.

The Sustainable Small Harbors project arose in 2014 when many of Michigan’s small coastal communities were struggling to cope with fluctuating water levels, declining populations, and economic instability. The project research team (consisting of Lawrence Technological University, Environmental Consulting & Technology, Inc., Veritas Economic Consulting, LLC, and David Larkin Knight, LLC) has assessed barriers preventing small harbor communities from becoming socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable.

Members of the project research team along with personnel from Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension facilitated in-depth visioning workshops in six coastal communities to help community members identify potential growth areas for their waterfronts. By May 2017, the team will publish a guidebook to help other coastal communities analyze their own waterfront assets and develop strategies to bolster their long-term economic, social, and environmental stability.

“This effort empowers communities to overcome the burdens of their historic legacies,” says Jon Allan, director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of the Great Lakes. “The process engaged community members in constructive conversations to create a shared vision.”

The 90-minute webinar will provide an overview of the project’s history, major findings and outcomes, and future directions. Representatives from the cities of New Baltimore and Ontonagon will speak about their experiences with the project. The webinar will conclude with an open question-and-answer session.

Registration is required to participate in this webinar, scheduled for May 8, 2017, at 2–3:30 p.m. EDT. Please register at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8474664373942398467

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with details about joining the webinar. Learn more about the project at: www.sustainablesmallharbors.org

Contact: Rhett Register, Michigan Sea Grant; (734) 647-0767, rregist@umich.edu 

Quiet Water Symposium

Event Date: 3/4/2017

quiet_water_symposium_arena_exhibits_2015

Mark your calendar and make plans to attend the 22nd Annual Quiet Water Symposium, which promotes non-motorized outdoor recreation.  Visit our Michigan Sea Grant booth and try your luck at winning a prize!

Last year’s Symposium featured over 200 exhibits, speakers and demonstrations. This year will feature presentations by noted travel writers, Jim DuFresne, Kevin Callan, Hap Wilson and the dean of outdoor writers, Cliff Jacobson.

Campers, hikers, cyclists, sailors, anglers, and of course paddle sport enthusiasts will all find something interesting at the symposium.

We hope to see you there!

When: Saturday, March 4, 2017
Where: Michigan State University Pavilion, 4301 Farm Lane, East Lansing, MI
Time: 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM
Cost: Adults $10.00, Students with I/D $5.00, under 12 free.

www.quietwatersociety.org

Could warm Great Lakes bring significant lake effect snow to Michigan?

Water temperature, wind direction and a chilly blast from Canada might push the snowfall totals.

Could warm Great Lakes bring significant lake effect snow to Michigan?

As noted in Part 1 of this series, the fall 2016 water temperatures of the Great Lakes are significantly warmer than average and there is no ice that has even come close to forming as of late November, 2016. Meteorologist Mark Torregrossa’s research using two Lake Michigan NOAA buoys shows average surface water temperatures set a record high in Lake Michigan (consistent data has been collected from 1979 onward). This is due to a warm winter 2015-16 and a hot summer 2016. This is a stark contrast to three years ago when ice started forming in shallow protected areas of the Great Lakes by Thanksgiving, Nov.28, 2013. What are some of the implications this might portend?

It is possible that very heavy lake effect snows could come from having such warm Great Lakes water. But it may not be that simple. Let’s start with a discussion of what lake effect snow actually is. Lake effect snow is created when a large temperature gradient exists between the surface of the Great Lakes and the temperature at 5000 feet above the ground. If the winds and temperatures are right, the air acts like a big sponge that sops up water from the lake and wrings it out on land in the form of snow. The direction of the wind is important—if the wind is blowing in a direction that covers more of the lake, the air will take in more water. The greater the temperature difference the more water the air will take in.

Animated map showing temperatures of the Great Lakes 2014 vs. 2016 courtesy of NOAA. There clearly is the warmth in the water. Perhaps a bigger question is will the cold air masses come in from Canada and for what duration to cause large lake effect? It seems a key to lake effect and annual snowfall amounts is likely related to the overall weather pattern which may have helped create the warm waters. In Traverse City where I reside, a new record high temperature was just reported by NOAA’s National Weather Service at 12:20 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 18, where the temperature was 71 degrees Fahrenheit. This is also the latest in the year that the temperature has been this warm since recordkeeping started in Traverse City in 1896.

We are also just getting started in a weak La Niña winter, contrasting with the strong El Niño winter of 2015-16. This may indicate a bit warmer than normal conditions from December to February. If this is the case, the winter may not be extremely wet or dry.

I have my snowblower ready for the lake effect snows that come to my region of Michigan. I’m sure we’ll have some good lake effect snows but I didn’t have to use the snowblower at all during November 2016. Time will tell how much Great Lakes water comes via lake effect this winter as well as the total amount of ice-cover for the season. I enjoy all four seasons so I look forward to enjoying the snow—and hopefully some ice fishing (probably on inland lakes).

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab has just announced that the water temperatures for all the Great Lakes are the warmest they have been since at least 2010 for the late November time frame. Data has been compiled from satellites and made into an animation (shown above) showing 2014/2016. Here is the full NOAA press release posted Nov. 28, 2016:

According to data from NOAA Coastwatch’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, the temperatures of the Great Lakes are the warmest they’ve been since at least 2010 for this late in the month of November. Created with data from several satellites, this animation compares Great Lakes surface temperatures in 2014 with 2016. As you can see, the surface temperatures in November 2016 are several degrees warmer than those of this time two years ago.

As weather watchers—and residents of the Great Lakes region—know, the combination of warm lake waters and cold winter winds blowing across them is a perfect combination for lake effect snow, which NOAA defines as “snow showers that are created when cold, dry air passes over a large warmer lake, such as one of the Great Lakes, and picks up moisture and heat.”

The last time that the Great Lakes were this warm was November 2010. That year, the lake surfaces remained mostly ice-free for the entire winter. Of course, just how much snow particular areas of the Great Lakes region will receive depends on which direction the winds blow. To see annual comparisons of various factors pertaining to the Great Lakes, visit the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory’s website. To see graphs depicting the average surface water temperatures of the Great Lakes for the past 5 years, click here. More information on satellite-derived measurements of sea (and lake) surface temperature is available here.”

To keep up with snowfall amounts:

The Gaylord National Weather Service keeps a snowfall year to date graph with seasonal averages and departures available. All observation stations in this large geographic area are well below normal at this time except the Houghton Lake station. http://www.weather.gov/apx/snowgraph_ytd

To keep up with Great Lakes ice cover:

www.glerl.noaa.gov//data/ice/#currentConditions

Read this two-part series:

Part 1: How much ice should we expect to see on the Great Lakes this winter?

Part 2: Could warm Great Lakes bring significant lake effect snow to Michigan?

How much ice should we expect to see on the Great Lakes this winter?

Last really big ice cover winter for the Great Lakes was 2013-2014 where over 92% of the Lakes were frozen over.

This graph shows maximum cover from 1973-2016 as recorded at NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab where they have been monitoring ice cover since the early 1970s. Image: GLERL

This graph shows maximum cover from 1973-2016 as recorded at NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab where they have been monitoring ice cover since the early 1970s. Image: GLERL

As noted earlier this summer, the 2016 water temperatures of the Great Lakes were significantly warmer than average. Data compiled from NOAA’s Great Lakes Coastal Forecasting System allows an easy comparison by date for the past 2 years and it is interesting to view now that we’re at the beginning of the winter season. For instance, on November 22, 2016, the average Lake Michigan whole volume temperature was 50.9 degrees Fahrenheit while the same date in 2015 it was 47.8 and in 2014 it was 45.5.

Our last really big ice cover winter for the Great Lakes was 2013-2014 where over 92 percent of the Lakes were frozen over. The graph shows maximum cover from 1973-2016 as recorded at NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab where they have been monitoring ice cover since the early 1970s.

So, during a really good ice winter, like that of 2013-14, how early did ice start forming in the Great Lakes? As early as Thanksgiving, 2013, (November 28)  ice had already started forming and by December 31, 2013, there was significant cover.  Images from the GLERL Digital Ice database show the ice cover on those dates.November 2013 ice cover

Now fast forward to 2016. There is no ice formed anywhere in the Great Lakes and we are past Thanksgiving. The reason is that all the Great Lakes are at their highest average temperatures for at least the past 5 years. As you can see there is a lot of annual variation and there is still much about ice in the Great Lakes we don’t understand.`

An interesting recent scientific publication by Titze & Austin (Journal of Great Lakes Research, Vol. 42, Issue 5, Oct. 2016) discusses some observations during the strong ice winter of 2013-14 on Lake Superior. So much of the knowledge of ice cover is based from remotely sensed data; this research adds actual observations of ice cover from three sub-surface moorings on the lakebed of Lake Superior. The sensors could observe the ice above all winter long. One finding that was noted is even during a record-high ice cover on Lake Superior of 2013-2014 the majority of the ice in open water areas of the lake was free-drifting and moving.

As researchers continue to study and gather data on Great Lakes ice cover, we will begin to more thoroughly understand impacts, implications and ecological functions of Great Lakes ice cover.

What are some possible implications of water temperature, ice and other factors in the Great Lakes during this winter of 2016/2017? Read Part 2 of this article to find out.

December 2013 ice cover

Recreational Boating Educational Conference (RBEC)

Event Date: 12/7/2016
End Date: 12/8/2016

Where Michigan’s Marine Industry Comes Together

Education. Networking. Fun.

December 7–8, 2016

The Recreational Boating Educational Conference is produced annually by the Michigan Boating Industries Association, bringing in nationally renowned speakers with expertise and information specific to the educational needs of the marine industry. It’s an opportunity for marine business people to come together for education, networking and fun – a great way to catch up with old friends and make new ones. Don’t miss the most important conference to add to your calendar this year!

www.recreationalboatingconference.com

Location:

Radisson Hotel at the Capitol
111 N. Grand Avenue
Lansing, MI 48933

Room Rate: $112.95/night

Reservations:
Radisson Reservations: (800) 333-3333
Hotel Direct: (517) 482-0188
Online: www.Radisson.com/lansingmi
PROMO CODE: RBEC16