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Great Lakes water levels are 2 feet lower than records set in 2020

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Posted at 9:21 PM, Feb 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-16 22:21:39-05

MICHIGAN — Scientists are seeing lower water levels in the Great Lakes. It's a change from the images we all remember of homes disappearing into the water after seeing high levels just a couple of years ago.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shows Lake Michigan and Lake Huron two feet below the records. A local expert says a couple of contributing factors play into this drop.

The Great Lakes are breathtaking, and like a breath, the waters go in and out.

"January was a very dry year across the basin. So actually, we had, you know, more of a decline than we normally would have in January," Grand Valley State University Annis Water Resources Institute Professor Alan Steinman told FOX 17.

Steinman has a passion for understanding the Great Lakes and has been studying them for more than 20 years.

"Things have changed dramatically due to the climate. And it's hard to know what the future is going to bring," Steinman said.

The distant future might be hard to see, but the next six monthsare a little more predictable.

"We'd anticipate that this would be a pretty normal year in that regard. They'll go back up, but they won't reach anywhere near the record levels we've had," Steinman said.

RELATED: Great Lakes ice coverage increases nearly 5X in less than a month

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers puts out monthly reports. Steinman is always looking over them, and February's report shows Lake Michigan and Huron seeing a two-foot drop since the record set in 2020.

"We're no longer near where we were at correct levels that were causing all the erosion and concerns for people's real estate along the shoreline," Steinman said.

Steinman says a cause for this drop is a lack of ice this winter.

"If the water is open, if it doesn't have ice cover, that'll cause a lot of evaporation, because the lakes, even though they're cold compared to July, they're relatively warm compared to the atmosphere, and that's what drives evaporation," Steinman said.

In true Michigan fashion, the weather can change. That's why those monthly reports also show a worst-case scenario in either direction.

"We often say Mother Nature has the last word," Steinman said.

Lake Superior, St. Clair and Erie also saw drops in water levels. Lake Ontario is the only one seeing a small increase but still below the record levels.

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