Scary Low water on the Great Lakes - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 23 Old 05-24-2013 Thread Starter
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Scary Low water on the Great Lakes

With some vital assistance from WingnWing, I got thinking about water levels on the Great lakes, and took a look at what is happening locally. I know that Michigan, Superior and Huron are low as well. Let's hear some firsthand experience from other sailors on the sweetwater seas.

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post #2 of 23 Old 05-24-2013
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Re: Scary Low water on the Great Lakes

Low water is going to be a big problem on Georgian Bay. We're lucky at Bay Moorings Marina in that it had deep water to begin with, still the Marina is in the process of lowering all the docks. Expensive and time consuming. Not sure what the sailboats at the south end of Penatang bay are going to do. After looking at the stats on water levels, I find that they don't seem to match what I saw at the end of last year. Yes I noticed the water level drop a bit during the season ( for the last three seasons for that matter ). But after the labour day weekend the level dropped about two feet inside a month, most of it in the first week and a half. That's not from evaporation and lack of rain. St. Claire dredging seems the likeliest culprit, but even then I'd expect a more gradual drawdown.
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post #3 of 23 Old 05-27-2013
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Re: Scary Low water on the Great Lakes

I'm at Bay Moorings too but my boat got moved there from Beacon Bay (further into the Penetang Bay) last August. She draws 6'1 and the previous owners discovered after several weeks of cruising that they could no longer get into their marina. There were a handful of other boats that got moved to Bay Moorings around the same time.
Looking at historical data, a lot of the docks were built when the water levels were about 3' above the long term average (http://www.ccme.ca/assets/pdf/cc_ind..._stlwrnc_e.pdf). Now Lake Huron is about 2' below the average. So there are a lot of shocking pictures.
Levels this low have happened historically. The difference seems to be that this time the water level hasn't bounced back yet. I wouldn't be surprised if the human changes to the lakes are causing this low to stick around longer than normal. Even if the levels are historically normal, it's a big deal when there's this much change in the basis for infrastructure.
It's getting a little tricky to accept advice about anchorages. People have told us to go into Chimney Bay on Beausoleil Island but from the charts and looking in from the dinghy, I can't see any way we'd get in there safely.


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post #4 of 23 Old 05-27-2013
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Re: Scary Low water on the Great Lakes

We'll be back on the St Lawrence in about 2 weeks, close to Lake Ontario and will report on the state of affairs when we get back.
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post #5 of 23 Old 05-27-2013
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Re: Scary Low water on the Great Lakes

Is this all about precipitation? On the western shores of the Chesapeake we are having unusually low water because of unprecedented western winds. it's making some inlets unnavigable by even shoal draft keels.

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post #6 of 23 Old 05-28-2013
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Re: Scary Low water on the Great Lakes

Quote:
Is this all about precipitation?
From what I understand, there are lots of factors. This includes industrial, agricultural, and municipal water use, and increased water flow exiting through the St.Clair river. However, the biggest portion of the change is due to the unusually warm and dry weather we have been having.

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post #7 of 23 Old 05-28-2013
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Re: Scary Low water on the Great Lakes

Eventually they will have to put locks on the St. Clair River to manage the outflow of water from the upper lakes. That is the only long term difference. Precipitation patterns and water use are cyclical factors.
Instead of flushing money down the toilet on stupid wars overseas we should be investing in projects like this.

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post #8 of 23 Old 05-28-2013
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Re: Scary Low water on the Great Lakes

NOAA has a great online resource: Great Lakes Water Level Observations

You can view the water level data going back to 1860s. It's interesting to view the trends over this time-span. What's clear is that we have been in a low and declining period since the mid-1990s. We've now reaching record-breaking lows.

According to the research I've read, the major contributor to declining Lake levels is increased winter evaporation due to declining ice coverage. The second factor is diminished precipitation in the Great Lakes basin. The St. Clair flow is a contributing factor as well, but it is much smaller compared to these other factors.

So far, other man-made diversions don't count for much, but given the dramatic increase in water pressures, particularly in the American mid-west and west, I bet the Great Lakes will soon become a battleground over water rights.

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Re: Scary Low water on the Great Lakes

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Originally Posted by dvuyxx View Post
Is this all about precipitation? On the western shores of the Chesapeake we are having unusually low water because of unprecedented western winds. it's making some inlets unnavigable by even shoal draft keels.
It really is a nasty cycle we are caught in- warmer, dryer weather means less precipitation, less precipitation means lower water levels, low water levels don't get a chance to recover in the winter because warmer temps mean no ice or less ice, which means year round evaporation, which leads to further warmer temps which means less snowmass and snowmass retention which means the watershed is depleted, which reduces the input to the great lakes which means lower water levels...

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post #10 of 23 Old 05-28-2013
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Re: Scary Low water on the Great Lakes

There can't be more evaporation and less precipitation, globally. What is getting deeper as the Great Lakes get shallower? The water doesn't disappear, it's just moving around.
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