The Chainlink

Short video of water lapping on trail without any wind.

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Banks are overflowing.  Forced off the trail to the west side of LSD tonight.

It was way higher 10,000 years ago. There are markers in Lincoln Park.

Ahh crap. Lake front property in peril :(

Well, 13,000-11,000 years ago Lake Chicago (the predecessor to Lake Michigan) ran west to LaGrange and south to Homewood and Lansing. For what it's worth.

The cycles (not the kind we ride but of the lake levels) really are interesting to watch.  What we have now is a new old problem, while the problem while a few years ago was just the opposite - the lowest levels since federal agencies began monitoring water levels...

What really happens is this: More than recent year's rains on average, it goes up.  Less than usual, goes down.  More warm than recent winters it goes down, more cold than recent winters, it goes up due to curtailed winter evaporation when the lake is frozen over.  Less than usual ice with snow on it, lakes go down.  More than usual ice with snow on it, lakes go up because they evaporate less in spring and summer due to colder water temps which are due to warming sunlight being reflected away by the snow.   More wind, more evaporation, less wind, less, and so forth. 

All of these conditions ebb and flow.  Sometimes there's certain alignment that drives near or long term minimums and maximums.  It's all pretty interesting, but for us on the lake front, it isn't such a good thing at the moment.   And before it was low a few years ago, it was higher, and problematic then too, and made for dramatic video along the lake front trail and Lakeshore Drive:

Plus—correct me if I'm wrong—Lake Michigan has only one outlet.

Yes, but not the one most people think of.

Hydrologically Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are the same body of water, and have the same water level.  The main outflow of the combined lakes is the St. Clair river to Lake Erie.

Agreed, it's very interesting to watch. There have been huge swings in the last few years. The long-term average is 578.84 feet (since 1918). 

The video of the cyclists being knocked down by waves was from a big storm in Sept. 2011, when the lake was at 577.85 feet, so slightly below average. Just a few years later in Jan. 2013 it was down to a record low of 576.02 feet. 

Last week, the lake hit 581.70 feet. Nearly 3 feet above average, and nearly 4 feet above what you saw in that 2011 video. The all time monthly average high is 582.35 feet, Oct 1986.

NOAA has some good info tracking lake levels on their website:

The water level is basically controlled by humans at Lake Erie. It's obviously influenced by the weather, but it's being higher or lower has everything to do with current management.

I researched this and climate change impacts before buying property here. :P

I highly recommend The Death and Life of the Great Lakes.

You meant to say Lake Ontario, yes?  From this article:

"Can the government control water levels?

There is no human regulation of water levels in Lake Erie, unlike in Lakes Superior and Ontario, at either end of the system, Mackey said. Ontario set records and suffered massive flooding last year.

Lake levels tend to be cyclical."

Here's the link.... or they may need to hear from you for correction? Thanks for the book recommendation.

Doh, yes, Ontario!

I got the book from the library and unfortunately can't do any sort of quick fact-checking. But the overwhelming point was that the outflow rates are all ongoing, highly imperfect engineering decisions (crudely adjusting for fluctuating erosion, sedimentation, etc.).

It's a bit trivial for the newspaper to report that lake levels are cyclical. Lots of things go up and down with autocorrelation at some seemingly consistent period (if you squint, anyway). That don't make it right.

:) Well they sure are vast and a lot to keep track of.  8 states or so touching them, plus Canada, a lot going on!  Taken as a group we could contend that the Great Lakes could be the 8th natural wonder of the world. 



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