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Great Lakes water levels remain below recent years' record highs

Lake Michigan
Posted at 12:38 PM, Aug 10, 2021

DETROIT — Even with a return to wetter conditions in late June and July, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers officials expect Great Lakes water levels to remain below 2019 and 2020 levels, when many record highs were set across the lakes.

Late spring and summer are typically when the lakes reach seasonal peaks before beginning seasonal declines in the late summer or early fall, according to a news release Tuesday.

This year, seasonal rises leading up to peak levels were less than average on all the lakes.

That’s especially true for Lake Michigan-Huron, which experienced its peak monthly mean level for the year in January, according to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

This has only happened three other times – 1931, 1958 and 1987.

“Very heavy rainfall occurred across a large portion of the Great Lakes basin in late June and July,” Detroit District Great Lakes Watershed Hydrology Chief Keith Kompoltowicz said. “This significant precipitation led to a rise in Lake Michigan-Huron water levels in July after a several months stretch of stable water level conditions.”

The “very wet” July led to the total precipitation for the Great Lakes basin to finish the month about 25% higher than average.

From June to July, Lake Superior remained near its June level.

Lake Michigan-Huron rose three inches, while lakes St. Clair, Erie and Ontario all rose four inches from June to July.

The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers’ most recent six-month forecast – covering August through January – indicates Great Lakes water levels will remain below record high levels, but above average on all lakes except Lake Ontario, which indicates water levels will stay around average.