Predicting record lows
Will Lakes Michigan and Huron set a new (modern day) record for low water level this winter? All signs point to yes.
For the past decade the levels in these lakes have fluctuated up and down annually a foot or more but always lingering on the down side of normal. Now, last winter's relative warmth and last summer's drought and high temperatures teamed up to send the level down to within two inches of the lowest recorded level – achieved in 1964.
Weather patterns can change and one never knows what will be in store for us in the next several months. However, normally, the winter months aren't friendly to those who would like to see Michigan/Huron water levels rebound. Most of the winter, the precipitation that would eventually flow into the lakes piles up on the ground as snow. While it sits there frozen, lake levels recede.
If the past trend of warmer than normal winter weather continues, evaporation from the lakes will play a role, as well. Cold dry, winter air sucks moisture from the open lakes like a sponge. That's why lake affect snow in winter is much more common than lake affect rains during the warm months. Lake Michigan hasn't frozen over completely for almost 20 years. It's been a decade since Lake Huron was completely ice covered.
Lake Superior is controlled by a dam at Saulte St. Marie but since it, too, was affected by heat and little precipitation last summer, Superior also is down. It's unlikely that water from Superior will be sacrificed to buoy up the lower lakes.
Blame it on natural cycles, man-made influences, karma, politics or any other cause. The reality for people using the lakes is they are shrinking.