A new and worrisome benchmark has been reached with the announcement Tuesday by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that Lakes Michigan and Huron have dipped to new record lows. It’s been a 14 year journey. That’s how long water levels have been below historic averages--the most extended run of below normal water levels in the 95 year record of Great Lakes dating back to 1918.
Water levels on these lakes have flirted with record lows in the months leading up to the news Tuesday.
The numbers are as stunning as they are disturbing with serious implications to shipping interests, all manner of creatures which populate the lakes, plus the millions who enjoy these natural treasures recreationally and depend on them as a source of water.
Water levels have fallen 6 feet from the record highs established in October 1986 and currently sit at levels 29"---i.e. just under 3 feet--- below the long term average. Lake Michigan's water level is 17" lower than a year ago.
These numbers help explain why lake waters no longer lap at some docks while ramps now sit far from the lake water into which they were to introduce boats in years past.
Drought, last winter's lack of snow, elevated evaporation rates and dredging of the St. Clair River, all cited as reasons for the lake-level pullback
Dredging of the St. Clair River to aid marine traffic on the Great Lakes has contributed to the alarming water level decline. But, so too has anomalous weather, reports the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. That agency measures and archives Great Lakes data.
The same drought, which so negatively impacted crop production across the nation's Heartland last growing season, and has played such a role in slashing the region's river flows to historic lows---among them, the mighty Mississippi where barge traffic is struggling---is at work on the Great Lakes as well. The meteorological factors at play here are developments consistent with the types of changes which might be expected to occur with greater frequency in a changing climate regime.
The lack of snow across the Great Lakes Basin in the 2011-12 cold season followed by the hot, dry summer last year and elevated evaporation levels have combined to negatively affect lake levels.
The Corps of Engineers notes that while lake levels typically rebound 12" in the warm season, those levels came back just 4" this past summer.
Wednesday's the first day of the past 6 likely NOT to see measurable snow---but wintry cocktail of precip on the way
While a quiet weather regime is predicted Wednesday, the day may prove most significant in becoming the first of the past 6 NOT to record measurable snow.
The respite from winter's harshest chill last week may prove a brief one as another in a string of wintry weather systems bears down on the area late Wednesday night and Thursday.
Warming aloft threatens to produce freezing rain and possible ice pellets more than snow, most likely getting underway in Thursday's pre-dawn hours.
Untreated surfaces may become icy in such a weather regime and will have to be monitored.
Tuesday's burst of snow generates a 5th consecutive day of measurable snow; snow tally of 5.7" in the past week exceeds all the snow which came before
Measurable snow fell a fifth consecutive day as a burst of heavy snowfall swept the area Tuesday afternoon in the wake of early morning flurries. Such an extended string of days reporting at least 0.1" of snow was last seen here four years ago.
Chicago moves into a 7th consecutive day of below normal temps; gap between February temps this year and last remains wide
The young month of February 2013 is running temperatures averaging well over 20-degrees colder than the same period a year earlier. Though not as frigid as readings a week ago, Wednesday temps are likely to finish below normal a 7th consecutive day.
Windy, wet Sunday storm on track to put the metro area in its warm sector Sunday
A stronger, potentially wetter storm, likely to tap a generous Gulf of Mexico moisture supply, lifts northeast across the Midwest Sunday into Monday.
The track currently projected for the system is likely to place Chicago in the system's so-called "warm-sector"---a set up which is predicted to lead to highs in the 40s.