Living near or on Lake St. Clair is truly a wonderful
experience. Waking up in the morning and seeing the
sun rise over the lake, studying the duck and swan
patterns, watching the fisherman catch his first fish in
the early morning or boating and swimming on that warm
summer day. But, have you ever wondered about the lake
changes and why they happen? Well, here are some interesting fact about the Great Lakes that lakeshore property owners or potential owners may find interesting.
Questions like, What causes major changes in lake levels? What difference can a change of 1-2 feet make? Do high and low lake level come in cycles? Can Great Lakes levels be controlled? What do lakeshore property owners Really need to know and how can they find our more information?
Primarily two factors cause major changes in lake levels, a prolonged period of heavy precipitation and little evaporation. Generally, lake levels are lowest in winter when most of the region's precipitation is frozen in place in ice and snow cover, and evaporation increases as dry winter air masses pass over the lake. Levels are highest in summer following the spring runoff of melting snow and ice. A change of 1 foot is a normal seasonal range from peak summer levels to the low winter levels. Occasional changes in water levels, up to six to seven times the seasonal variations have always been part of the natural cycle for coastal wetlands and lakeshores. The difference is felt by people with facilities at or near the lake when a change of 1 or 2 feet occurs after a prolonged period of rising lake levels, this is, when lake levels go beyond the comfortable range to which users are accustomed.
High lake levels indeed do come in cycles but not in regular or predictable ones. Since the high water levels in the 1950's, there have been two high-water peaks during 1973-74 and 1985-86 and there has only been one major below-average dip in water levels from 1963-1965. Lake levels can be adjusted but not controlled. Adjustments are made to a series of control gates in dams at the lakes outlets, but this only results in lake level changes of less than a foot over six months to a year.
There are several sources to find more information about our Great Lakes. Recent water level data can be obtained from the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor or at www.glerl.noaa.gov/data/data.html. Weekly forecasts can be obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at www.lre.usace.army.mil or by writing U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District, CENCE-EP-HI, P.O. Box 1027, Detroit, MI 48231
Note: Information was taken from Sea Grant, University of Wisconsin
Specializing in Grosse Pointe, St. Clair Shores
Harrison and Chesterfield Twp, Harper Woods