Photograph by Peter Essick http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/habitats/down…
North America’s famous Great Lakes are diminishing. Comprising the largest collection of fresh water anywhere on this planet, those vast reservoirs, particularly Lake Huron and Lake Michigan but affecting at least four of the five Lakes (the high lake, Superior, least affected), are recently seeing their levels drop to the lowest seen in recorded history:
Two Great Lakes Hit Lowest Water Level on Record
By JOHN FLESHER | Associated Press – Wed, Feb 6, 2013
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Two of the Great Lakes have hit their lowest water levels ever recorded, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Tuesday, capping more than a decade of below-normal rain and snowfall and higher temperatures that boost evaporation.
Measurements taken last month show Lake Huron and Lake Michigan have reached their lowest ebb since record keeping began in 1918, and the lakes could set additional records over the next few months, the corps said. The lakes were 29 inches below their long-term average and had declined 17 inches since January 2012.
The other Great Lakes — Superior, Erie and Ontario — were also well below average.
“We’re in an extreme situation,” said Keith Kompoltowicz, watershed hydrology chief for the corps district office in Detroit.
The low water has caused heavy economic losses by forcing cargo ships to carry lighter loads, leaving boat docks high and dry, and damaging fish-spawning areas. And vegetation has sprung up in newly exposed shoreline bottomlands, a turnoff for hotel customers who prefer sandy beaches.
The corps’ report came as shippers pleaded with Congress for more money to dredge ever-shallower harbors and channels. Shippers are taxed to support a harbor maintenance fund, but only about half of the revenue is spent on dredging. The remainder is diverted to the treasury for other purposes. Legislation to change that policy is pending before Congress.
“Plunging water levels are beyond anyone’s control, but the dredging crisis is man-made,” said James Weakley, president of the Cleveland-based Lake Carriers’ Association.
Kompoltowicz said the Army corps might reconsider a long-debated proposal to place structures in a river to reduce the flow of water away from Lakes Huron and Lake Michigan, which are connected.
Scientists say lake levels are cyclical and controlled mostly by nature. They began a steep decline in the late 1990s and have usually lagged well below their historical averages since then.
In this Nov. 16, 2012 photo, a sand bar is exposed by low water on Portage Lake in Onekama, Mich., which has made nearby docks and marinas largely unusable. (John Flesher/AP Photo)http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/great-lakes-hit-record-low-levels-…
Lake Michigan hits record low level
February 8, 2013 by Dan Egan
Lake Michigan has officially sunk to an all-time low.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported Tuesday that in January the lake plunged below its previous record low level, set in March 1964. The water is now more than 6 feet below the record high, set in October 1986. The water level is tracked by gauges placed around Lakes Michigan and Huron, which are actually one body of water connected by the Straits of Mackinac. Daily measurements are then averaged at the end of each month for record-keeping purposes. The lakes have recently been setting individual monthly records, but Tuesday’s announcement means the lakes are now lower than they have ever been for any month since modern record-keeping began in 1918. Hydrologists had been expecting the lakes to dip to a level never seen before, given the relatively warm and dry weather over the past year. “Not only have water levels on Michigan-Huron broken records the past two months, but they have been very near record lows for the last several months before then,” said John Allis, chief of the Army Corps’ Great Lakes hydraulics and hydrology office. “Lake Michigan-Huron’s water levels have also been below average for the past 14 years, which is the longest period of sustained below-average levels since 1918.”
[Likely much longer as that is when record-keeping began]
Water levels on the Great Lakes fluctuate seasonally by inches and by as much as several feet over a period of years, depending on long-term weather patterns. But they were previously bracketed by the record low of March 1964 and the record high of October 1986. Now the lakes are headed into uncharted territory, and some want the U.S. and Canadian governments to do something about it.