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2021 Great Lakes Current and Historical Water Levels (May 2021 Update)

Updated May 8th. Excepts from the Army Corps of Engineers – Detroit District’s Monthly and Weekly reports for Great Lakes Water Levels and Great Lakes Water Level History.


All The Great Lake Water Levels Continue To Drop From Record Levels

The projected May 7th water levels indicate that all the lakes increased by 1 to 5 inches last month. Also, the forecasted May 7th levels for all lakes are below the water levels from this time last year. Lake Superior is 4 inches below last year, Lakes Michigan-Huron, St. Clair, and Erie are 15 inches below last year, and Lake Ontario is 26 inches below last year. All the lakes remain above their long-term monthly average levels, except for Lake Ontario. Projected water levels for June 7th show all the lakes in their seasonal rise and rising by 1 to 3 inches.

Lakes Michigan-Huron Water Levels

Lake Water Levels Michigan-Huron May 2021
Lakes Michigan-Huron Water Levels May 2021

On May 7th, the water level is forecasted at 580.58 feet. Lake Michigan-Huron had dropped 15 inches since May 2020, rising one inch over the past month. Levels were down 17 inches below the monthly high record set in 2020. Lake Huron remains at 48 inches above the record monthly low, set in 1964. The lakes are expected to rise by 2 inches in mid-May 2021. Lake Michigan-Huron is expected to stay above its long-term monthly mean water level for the rest of 2021. For reporting purposes, Lakes Michigan-Huron is the same body of water.

Lake Superior Water Level

Lake Superior Water Level May 2021
Lake Superior Water Level May 2021

As of May 7th, 2021, the Lake Superior water level is forecasted to be 602.13 feet. This is 9 inches less than the high record monthly mean water level set in 2019 and 30 inches higher than the lowest record set in 1926. Over the next month, Lake Superior is expected to rise 3 inches. Lake Superior is expected to stay above its long-term monthly mean water level for the rest of 2021.

Early projects show that due to La Nina weather patterns of the past, Lake Superior may again approach record water levels during the Fall of 2021.

Lake St. Clair Water Level

Lake St. Clair Water Levels May 2021
Lake St. Clair Water Levels May 2021

As of May 7th, 2021, Lake St. Clair’s water level is forecasted to be 576.02 feet. This is 16 inches less than the high record monthly mean water level set in 2020 and 34 inches higher than the lowest record set in 1934. Over the next month, Lake St. Clair is expected to rise by 2 inches. Lake St. Clair is expected to stay above its long-term monthly mean water level for the rest of 2021.

Lake Erie Water Level

Lake Erie Water Levels May 2021
Lake Erie Water Levels May 2021

As of May 7th, 2021, Lake Erie’s water level is forecasted to be 573.06 feet. This is 16 inches less than the record high water level set in 2020 and 48 inches higher than the lowest record set in 1934. Over the next month, Lake Erie is expected to rise by 1 inch. Lake Erie is expected to stay above its long-term monthly mean water level for the rest of 2021.

Lake Ontario Water Level

Lake Ontario Water Levels May 2021
Lake Ontario Water Levels May 2021

As of May 7th, 2021, Lake Ontario’s water level is forecasted to be 245.11 feet. This is 43 inches less than the record high monthly mean water level set in 2017 and 24 inches higher than the lowest record set in 1935. Over the next month, Lake Ontario is expected to rise by 1 inch. Lake Ontario is expected to fall below its long-term monthly mean water level for the rest of 2021.


May – June Downbound Outflows Expected To Remain Above Average

Lake Superior’s outflow through the St. Marys River is predicted to be average this May. Lake Michigan-Huron’s outflow through the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair’s outflow into the Detroit River is forecasted to be above average for May. Lake Erie’s outflow into the Niagara River is predicted to be above average for May. Lake Ontario’s outflow through the St. Lawrence River is projected to be above average in May.


Long Term Great Lakes Water Measurement Estimates

Experimental 5-year Outlook of Great Lakes Water Levels by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, The four narrow panels to the right depict the range of variability (shown as shaded vertical lines) of monthly mean water levels within the subsequent two to four 12-month periods of the outlook horizon, as well as the annual mean water level predicted for those 12 month periods (shown as large dark points).

In addition to outlook data, graphics include a red horizontal line showing the long term average annual water level (LTA Annual), black bars showing long term average monthly mean water levels (LTA Monthly), and gray bars showing long term maximum and minimum monthly mean water levels (Max/Min Monthly).

Lakes Michigan-Huron Water Levels Experimental 5 Year Forecast

Lakes Michigan-Huron Water Levels Experimental 5 Year Forecast
Lakes Michigan-Huron Water Levels Experimental 5 Year Forecast

The experimental forecast for the next five years shows Lakes Michigan-Huron to remain above the yearly and monthly long term averages for the next five years.

Lake Superior Water Levels Experimental 5 Year Forecast

 Lake Superior Water Levels Experimental 5 Year Forecast
Lake Superior Water Levels Experimental 5 Year Forecast

The experimental forecast for the next five years shows Lake Superior to remain above the yearly long-term average and fluctuate within its monthly long-term averages for the next five years.

Lake St. Clair Water Levels Experimental 5 Year Forecast

Lake St. Clair Water Levels Experimental 5 Year Forecast
Lake St. Clair Water Levels Experimental 5 Year Forecast

The experimental forecast for the next five years shows Lake St. Clair to remain above the yearly and monthly long-term averages for the next five years.

Lake St. Clair Water Levels Experimental 5 Year Forecast

 Lake Erie Water Levels Experimental 5 Year Forecast
Lake Erie Water Levels Experimental 5 Year Forecast

The experimental forecast for the next five years shows Lake Erie to remain above the yearly and monthly long-term averages for the next five years.


The outlook from April 2021

The outlook from April 2021 for the next month by the Climate Prediction Center shows a possibility of above-normal temperatures for April. The forecast for rain in April is equal chances for most of the basin. This means an equal prospect of the basin enduring above, below, or near-normal precipitation. The seasonal three-month forecasts for temperatures and precipitation in the late spring and early summer (April, May, June) indicate a likelihood of above-normal temperatures and above-normal rain for all the Great Lakes basin. The seasonal outlook of above-normal precipitation can be partially credited to the ongoing La Niña. However, the La Niña conditions are forecast to transition to ENSO neutral later this spring.

Like January, the Great Lakes basin and each lake basin received below-average precipitation in February. Each lake received between 46% to 58% of its average February precipitation. Furthermore, precipitation in the Lake Superior, Erie, and Ontario basins has been around 16-20% below average over the past 12 months. Lake Superior received approximately four times its average water supply for February, while the other lakes received below-average supplies. An ice jam on the St. Clair River during the month likely impacted the water supply to Lake Erie. Outflows remained above average from all lakes due to the high-water level conditions; however, outflow through the St. Clair River was decreased by the ice restrictions.

From January to February, all lakes saw a decline in water levels. Lakes Superior and Michigan-Huron declined 3 inches, Lake St. Clair declined 6 inches, Lake Erie declined 5 inches, and Lake Ontario declined 4 inches from January to February. The water level declines on Lake St. Clair and Erie were influenced by the ice jam on the St. Clair River. The 6-month forecast projects Lakes Superior and Michigan-Huron to continue their seasonal declines over the next month while levels are expected to rise on Lakes St. Clair, Erie, and Ontario.

2020 Was A Record Year for the Great Lakes

These levels made 2020 a record year.

This past August, La Niña conditions developed in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. This means that the sea surface temperatures in the eastern and central equatorial Pacific oceans are cooler than normal.
When this occurs, there can be impacts on the Great Lakes region’s weather, especially in the winter. The current forecast issued by the Climate Prediction Center expects that La Niña will last through the winter. The weather conditions that typically occur then a La Niña is present in the winter. For the Great Lakes basin, southern portions of the basin could experience wetter than normal conditions, and colder air could push further south into the region.

2020 Yearly Great Lakes Water Volume History

Lake Michigan-Huron has set a record high monthly mean level for 9 consecutive months. Also, the August 2020 level was 4 inches above its August 2019 level and 33 inches above its August Long Term Average level.

Dynamic Great Lakes – Lake Level Viewer – From NOAA

Daily Great Lakes Water Level History

The report below is a view of long-term, basin-scale hydrological data for the Laurentian Great Lakes. Water levels are continuously observed by U.S. and Canadian federal agencies in the region through binational cooperation. NOAA-GLERL relies on this water level data to conduct research on the regional water budget components and improve predictive models.

NOAA’s Center operates water level monitoring stations for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Canadian Hydrographic Service. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Detroit, Chicago, Buffalo) and Environment and Climate Change Canada play crucial roles in research, coordination of data, and operational seasonal water level forecasts for the basin.

Observed Lake Huron Levels at Harbor Beach, Michigan

Current Weather and Lake Huron Conditions at Harbor Beach Michigan

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