Lake Superior water levels: good for boaters, bad for beach seekers
US-based environmental lab says August's levels higher this year than average
Boats large and small are having an easier time on Lake Superior this year due to higher-than-average water levels, says a Great Lakes researcher.
The higher water table is mainly due to the combination of wet weather —both rain and snow — and cold winters over the past couple of years said Andrew Gronewold, a hydrologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Currently, the lake is almost 20 cm higher than the August average, and almost 70 cm higher than the lake's lowest point in August, set in 2007.
Lake Superior's water levels generally follow a yearly cycle, rising to their highest point in July and August before declining through the fall.
"When water levels get extremely low, it can often be hard for commercial vessels or even individual recreational vessels to access narrow channels," Gronewold said, adding that vessels now have easier access to docks, marinas and ports.
'It looks like the water is creeping into the bush'
That's also what Alexander Paterson is noticing this year.
The avid boater from Thunder Bay said a recent outing on the water highlighted how high it has become.
Looking back at land from the water also gives an indication of how much the water has risen in the past 10 years, he said.
Thunder Bay port officials also are saying that the current state of the lake is benefiting larger vessels in the lake. Harbour master Guy Jarvis told CBC News higher levels significantly reduce concerns about access throughout the Great Lakes shipping routes.
"When you have low water and you have silting ... you may have to restrict the loading of a cargo ship, but that hasn't happened in the last 10 years."
While levels this month are higher than average, they've still not reached the lake's high point for August, set back in 1952.
Lake Superior levels rebounding after years of low water
Part of the reason why the lake looks so high is the relatively long period of low water that's preceded the past couple of years, Gronewold said.
"Many folks have been used to having these sort of wide expanses of shoreline property, beaches, and they've gotten accustomed to water levels being a particular point and a particular shoreline."
But data shows the lake levels that produced those beaches were well below average. Gronewold said starting in the late 1990s, lake levels declined dramatically and stayed that way for about 15 years.
Where are Water Levels Heading on the Great Lakes? <a href="https://twitter.com/NOAA_GLERL">@NOAA_GLERL</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/environmentca">@environmentca</a> <a href="https://t.co/07n17nt2x0">https://t.co/07n17nt2x0</a> <a href="https://t.co/6gnYq3VNuo">pic.twitter.com/6gnYq3VNuo</a>—@IJCsharedwaters