After drops, Superior’s water level on rebound

Duluth, Minn. (AP) – Even as other great lakes appear headed to
an all-time low level this month, Lake Superior is holding its own
and seems to be recovering from a drought that dropped the lake to
alarming levels.

Lake Superior’s water level dropped by 2 inches in December,
less than the usual 3-inch decline for the last month of the year.
It now sits 11 inches below the long-term average, but is 6 inches
above the level of one year ago, according to the International
Lake Superior Board of Control.

The amount of rain and snow that fell on the Lake Superior basin
in December was well above normal, with Duluth recording its
sixth-snowiest December of all time. That came on the heels of a
near-record wet October.

Since September, Lake Superior mostly has been climbing away
from the all-time monthly lows set in August and September. That
rise has seemed to coincide with a 14-month-long drought in the
region, though it’s too early to determine if a nearly three-year
drier-than-average spell has ended.

Lake Superior is expected to continue to drop throughout the
winter, which is normal, before beginning its annual rise sometime
in April. But it’s looking less likely that the lake will fall
below the all-time record low level set in April 1926, said Cynthia
Sellinger, deputy director of the Great Lakes Environmental
Research Laboratory operated by the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration.

“It’s higher than it was last year,” Sellinger said. “But it is
also warmer, which means less ice” – and probably more evaporation
in the winter, which could result in yet greater declines if winter
storm systems from the west, instead of precipitation driven by the
lake effect, don’t keep up.

Lakes Michigan and Huron declined by their usual 2 inches in
December and now sit a whopping 26 and 13 inches, respectively,
below the Jan. 1 level of last year. Experts think it’s possible
both lakes could beat their all-time record lows, set in March
1964, when the January monthly average level is figured at month’s
end.

A U.S.-Canadian panel is studying why the Great Lakes have been
lower in recent years, looking at factors including climate change,
natural drought cycles, man-made channels, dam regulation, and
other factors.

Whatever the cause, low lake levels have hampered recreational
boating and the maritime industry, which has been forced to reduce
loads and avoid areas at some ports.

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