The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers put out a news release Friday morning warning “Great Lakes water levels higher than last year at this time,” announcing that all of the Great Lakes started 2020 higher than 2019, “ a year where many record high-water levels were set across the lakes.”
In the release, the Corps warns that those impacted by 2019 high waters can expect more of the same this year. “The most recent six-month forecast of Great Lakes water levels shows water levels continuing to be well above average over this period. Unlike last year, lakes Michigan and Huron are forecasted to reach record high levels this year.” The forecast shows those two lakes seeing new monthly mean high record levels in the next couple of months. Lake Superior did reach new high-water records several times during 2019. “This sets the stage for coastal impacts and damages in 2020 similar to, or worse than, what was experienced last year,”
John Allis, chief of the Great Lakes Hydraulics and Hydrology Office, Detroit District, said in the release. “Several natural factors contribute to the record lake levels,” according to the release. “Persistent wet conditions across the Great Lakes basin continue to drive high water levels. Many cities across the basin set records in 2019 for the wettest period on record. The warmer than average temperatures in December led to greater runoff due to snow pack melting, especially on lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron, leading to more water supply. The warm air also caused less evaporation off the lakes’ surface, which leads to more water in the system. … The water levels of each lake peaked during this past summer or fall and since then have been in a seasonal decline, however, significant erosion continues in many locations as water levels remain extremely high. Strong storm systems and resulting large waves have led to substantial erosion along much of the Great Lakes coastline.” The Corps has created a high water webpage with information about the high waters and about permitting for shoreline projects.