Experts unsure if water levels will remain high
Because of low temperatures over the past few weeks there is more ice cover on the Great Lakes than in recent years.
Experts are now trying to assess if that means lake levels will increase because of the added ice.
"We have had very cold weather early this winter," Keith Kompoltowicz, chief of watershed hydrology with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said. "There is a lot more ice on the lakes. The ice cover on Lake Michigan is at 40 percent and it is at about 45 percent on Lake Huron.
"There is a lot of research and experimentation taking place regarding evaporation," Kompoltowicz continued. "We know that evaporation plays a significant role in how much water leaves the system, just as we know that rain plays a major role in adding water. However, while we have a pretty good understanding about how to measure rain and its impact, that's not the case with evaporation. We're just beginning to get new technologies that could help us measure evaporation on the lakes."
There is reason to focus on the water levels of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. A year ago, in December 2012 and January 2013, the water level of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron dipped to the lowest levels recorded for those months since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started keeping track in 1918.
That attracted attention, including claims that the low levels were caused by man-made climate change. However, by February the level was higher than it was back in the 1960s and remained higher than in previous low periods throughout the rest of 2013.
During the Corps' 95 years of data collecting on the Great Lakes there have been three low level periods: 1926 through the mid-1930s, 1963 through the mid-1970s, and the current low period, from 2000 to the present. Throughout most of the current low level period, water levels on the Great Lakes have been above those of the 1963 through mid-1970s low period.
Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are considered two lakes geographically but one lake in hydrological terms, and are considered one lake in regard to lake levels. Currently the water level on Lake Michigan and Lake Huron is about a foot above what it was a year ago and 14 inches above the mean monthly level of January 1965, which was the lowest measured over the 95 years of recordkeeping by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"We expect it to stay about a foot above last year's level at least through about June,” Kompoltowicz said.