Record High Lake Erie Water Levels To Continue In 2020

Lake Erie water levels continue to reach record highs. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District, recently announced that January 2020 water levels were higher on all Great Lakes than they were in January 2019, and are expected to continue that trend into the spring and summer.

“This sets the stage for coastal impacts and damages in 2020 similar to, or worse than, what was experienced last year,” said John Allis, chief of the Great Lakes Hydraulics and Hydrology Office, Detroit District.

The Corps urges those impacted by the high water levels of 2019 to prepare for similar or higher levels again in 2020. The most recent six-month forecast of Great Lakes water levels shows water levels continuing to be well above average and near record high levels over this period.

Several natural factors contribute to the record high lake levels. Persistent wet conditions across the Great Lakes basin continue to drive high water levels. Many cities across the basin set records in 2019 for the wettest period on record. The warmer than normal temperatures in January led to greater runoff and reduced evaporation across much of the Great Lakes basin.

Late winter and spring is a period of seasonal rise on all of the Great Lakes due to increased rainfall and runoff. Water levels typically peak in the summer or early fall. Significant erosion continues in many locations as water levels remain extremely high. Strong storm systems and resulting large waves have led to substantial erosion along much of the Great Lakes coastline.

With all of the Great Lakes near or above record-highs for this time of year, there is an exceptional volume of water in the system, according to the International Lake Superior Board of Control. Water levels are expected to remain high over at least the next several months, and further record-highs are possible if wet conditions continue in 2020. As a result, there will continue to be a significantly increased risk of shoreline erosion, lakeshore flooding and coastal damages over the next several weeks and into the spring. The International Lake Superior Board of Control (Board) advises all those that may be affected to prepare for potentially severe coastal impacts, especially during periods of strong winds and high waves.