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Low Great Lakes Water Levels in 2012

In 2011, the US Army Corps of Engineers were forecasted lower Great Lakes Water Level in 2012 for Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron. High temperatures coupled with lack of snowfall in the upper Great Lakes are contributing factors to the decline. Lake Superior was expected to continue to drop from 2011 and was expected to drop another two inches over the next month. Currently, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron water levels are 7 inches above the water levels measured in 2011.

Great Lakes Water Levels
Caseville Ice Shanty Jan 2011

Warm Temps, Lack of Ice Cover

NOAA’s National Ice Center reported that most of the Great Lakes region did not freeze over, and open water was reported on all the lakes except for Lake St. Clair in the winter of 2012

Great Lakes Water Level Chart 1918-2021

When drought, low snowmelt, and evaporation send the Great Lakes toward historically low water levels, it dampers the $34 billion Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway shipping industry. Given the number of raw materials and agriculture affected, the reduced number of shipping days and access to key ports typically cost jobs and impact the United States economy. Each year, the amount of iron ore alone shipped through the Soo Locks is $500.4 billion. An average of 80 million tons of freight passes through them each year.

Overall the levels of the Great Lakes basin continue to approach historic lows. Low water levels in the 1930s and again in the 1960s were weather-related. Will lake levels continue to decline because of evaporation during these warmer winters?


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