Report says Great Lakes inching
Duluth News Tribune
Lake Superior dropped a bit in 2003 compared with 2002,
but ice cover, lower temperatures and increasing precipitation
are generally bringing the Great Lakes up from low water
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District released
its annual report Monday on the levels of the Great Lakes,
noting marked recovery forwater-starved lakes Michigan
Lake Superior started 2003 about 7 inches below the long-term
normal for January and ended the year about 9 inches below
normal for December. Those numbers are not out of the
statistical norm and near the level listed on navigation
Last fall's storms in the region and recent snowfall
from storms that started outside the region -- not just
lake-effect snow -- also add encouragement for coming
months and a return to more normal temperatures.
Lake levels are important for Great Lakes shipping because
extremely low levels restrict how much cargo ships can
carry. Lake levels also affect recreational boating and
Lakes Huron and Michigan began 2003 about 20 inches below
normal for January and ended the year 18 inches low for
December, about the same as 2002. Lakes Erie and Ontario
closed the gap about 2 inches toward normal.
Colder weather slows evaporation, as does extensive ice
"There has been a significant improvement on Michigan
and Huron... and that's because we had reduced evaporation,"
Marie Strum, chief of the watershed hydrology branch of
the Corps, said Monday. "We had a very extensive
ice cover last winter and that remained until early spring,
which kept the water temperatures lower."
The latest decline in lake levels began about 1997, said
Cynthia Sellinger, a hydrologist with the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration's Great Lakes Environmental
Sellinger said it may take years for the lakes to all
return to average levels.
"So far this winter, we've had a good snow pack,"
Sellinger said. "We've had water that's coming from
outside of the (Great Lakes) basin, not necessarily just
lake-effect snow. There were systems that came from the
Gulf and came from the Pacific that brought moisture from
outside the basin."