Great Lakes water levels hit 35-year low : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

August 16, 2000

Great Lakes water levels hit 35-year low Lake Ontario the exception

Andrew McIntosh National Post Carlo Allegri, National Post

Environment Canada is predicting a warm fall with below-average precipitation and says this will lead to lower water depths at docks and boat ramps, which could cause difficulties.

OTTAWA - Despite heavy rainfall throughout the summer, water levels in some of the Great Lakes are at their lowest levels in 35 years, Environment Canada reported yesterday.

The low water levels mean recreational boaters and marinas on the Great Lakes might be forced to remove boats from water early in the fall for winter storage.

The Great Lakes experience a yearly cycle in their water levels, peaking in summer and declining as winter approaches.

Water levels in Lake Huron, including Georgian Bay, and in Lake Michigan, are already almost 50 centimetres below their average levels for early August and 15 centimetres below 1999 levels.

Environment Canada is forecasting a warm fall with below- average precipitation.

"This will lead to less-than-usual water depth at docks and boat ramps, which could cause some difficulty in removing boats," said Chuck Southam, a spokesman for the federal agency.

"In some cases, it may be necessary to remove boats earlier than usual. There is a possibility that similar conditions could occur on Lakes St. Clair and Erie," he added.

Lake St. Clair is 10 centimetres below average water levels and five centimetres lower than 1999, while Lake Erie is five centimetres below long-term average levels. Levels in Lake Superior are 25 centimetres below average and 15 centimetres below 1999.

Mr. Southam said the low water levels have been caused by above-average temperatures. particularly in 1998 and 1999, two of the warmest summers since 1948.

The warmer weather has increased the evaporation from the Great Lakes and surrounding lands draining into them, he said. Below-average snowfalls this past winter, particularly in the upper Great Lakes basin, failed to replenish the lakes during the spring snowmelt.

Mr. Southam added that much of the heavy rainfall in June and July only compensated for the low snowmelt this spring and has only restored water levels to their 1999 mark.

Lake Ontario is the exception, he said. Its levels are 20 centimetres above long-term averages.

-- Martin Thompson (, August 16, 2000

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