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Great Lakes Water Level Future Scenarios - January Scenarios - March Update

Water Level Scenarios Summary:

This product is not an official forecast of Great Lakes water levels. Rather, this product is meant to illustrate outcomes that would occur under historical weather and water supply condition, with scenarios chosen based on similarities to recent conditions. For the official forecast, please see our Monthly Bulletin of Great Lakes Water Levels. This tool has been predominantly used to show the possible range of water levels in the upcoming year based on historical hydrologic conditions and water supplies. Beginning in 2021, we will be modifying our scenarios to account for different time periods based on the scenario that is chosen. For example, the January 2021 future scenarios will be focused on the La Nina that developed late this summer and is forecast to last through the winter and weaken this spring. As a result, our current scenarios will only extend out 6 months.

 

Water levels follow a seasonal cycle where water levels rise in the spring due to increased precipitation and enhanced runoff from snowmelt. In the fall, the lakes generally decline due to an increase in evaporation as temperatures decline and cold air moves over the relatively warm lake waters. We refer to the combined effect of precipitation over the lake, evaporation from the lake, and runoff to the lake as Net Basin Supply (NBS). This edition of the Water Level Future Scenarios showcases four years that were similar to 2020 based on the La Nina development during the summer or fall and warmer than normal global temperatures. A recent blog post by the Climate Prediction Center goes into further detail at the link here: https://www.climate.gov/news-features/blogs/enso/december-2020-la-ni%C3%B1a-update-walking-la-ni%C3%B1a-winter-wonderland.  The four years highlighted in the blog that closely matched 2020 were 1970, 1995, 2007, and 2010. The future scenarios shown in the graphics below represent the water levels that would occur if hydrologic conditions and water supplies are similar to those in the first 6 months of years following the La Nina development and warmer than normal temperatures. The most recent coordinated 6-month forecast is also shown for comparison.



Click on the individual graphics to view a larger, printer-friendly image (pdf).


12-Month Outlook Legend

 
Lake Superior 12-Month Outlook Graphic Lakes Michigan-Huron 12-Month Outlook Graphic
Lake St. Clair 12-Month Outlook Graphic Lake Erie 12-Month Outlook Graphic


12-Month Outlook Legend
 
 
* For the official 6-month forecast of all lakes, including Lake Ontario, see the Monthly Bulletin of Great Lakes Water Levels.
 

Click here to obtain a short infographic summarizing the Scenario (pdf)

 

Click here to obtain the full Great Lakes Water Level Future Scenarios document (pdf)

Great Lakes Water Level Future Scenarios Data

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Lake Superior

Monthly Mean Water Level (meters IGLD)

  Mar-21 Apr-21 May-21 Jun-21 Jul-21 Aug-21
1971 183.43 183.47 183.59 183.71 183.75 183.76
1996 183.43 183.46 183.58 183.71 183.81 183.87
2008 183.42 183.47 183.58 183.69 183.79 183.80
2011 183.41 183.42 183.53 183.63 183.70 183.71
Ensemble Median 183.43 183.46 183.55 183.63 183.68 183.70
Long Term Average 183.24 183.27 183.37 183.45 183.52 183.54
Long Term Maximum 183.61 183.68 183.77 183.84 183.86 183.86
Long Term Minimum 182.74 182.72 182.76 182.85 182.96 183.01

 

Lake Michigan-Huron

Monthly Mean Water Level (meters IGLD)

 

  Mar-21 Apr-21 May-21 Jun-21 Jul-21 Aug-21
1971 176.98 177.05 177.13 177.15 177.16 177.14
1996 176.93 176.98 177.12 177.24 177.31 177.30
2008 176.96 177.04 177.16 177.24 177.31 177.27
2011 176.98 177.08 177.23 177.32 177.34 177.29
Ensemble Median 176.97 177.03 177.11 177.16 177.17 177.15
Long Term Average 176.32 176.40 176.50 176.57 176.60 176.58
Long Term Maximum 177.22 177.30 177.38 177.45 177.46 177.42
Long Term Minimum 175.58 175.61 175.74 175.76 175.78 175.77

 

Lake St. Clair

Monthly Mean Water Level (meters IGLD)

 

  Mar-21 Apr-21 May-21 Jun-21 Jul-21 Aug-21
1971 175.56 175.59 175.59 175.62 175.59 175.56
1996 175.51 175.59 175.73 175.85 175.85 175.79
2008 175.60 175.71 175.74 175.78 175.81 175.75
2011 175.67 175.82 176.01 176.06 176.00 175.90
Ensemble Median 175.54 175.62 175.68 175.70 175.69 175.65
Long Term Average 174.93 175.06 175.15 175.20 175.22 175.18
Long Term Maximum 175.83 175.91 175.98 176.02 176.04 175.97
Long Term Minimum 174.05 174.32 174.42 174.45 174.50 174.41

 

Lake Erie

Monthly Mean Water Level (meters IGLD)

 

  Mar-21 Apr-21 May-21 Jun-21 Jul-21 Aug-21
1971 174.60 174.66 174.69 174.70 174.66 174.61
1996 174.60 174.70 174.84 174.97 175.00 174.89
2008 174.69 174.88 174.90 174.90 174.91 174.83
2011 174.71 174.99 175.21 175.26 175.16 175.03
Ensemble Median 174.61 174.73 174.82 174.83 174.80 174.74
Long Term Average 174.10 174.24 174.33 174.36 174.34 174.28
Long Term Maximum 174.95 175.05 175.08 175.14 175.13 175.02
Long Term Minimum 173.20 173.38 173.44 173.45 173.45 173.43

 

Lake Superior

Monthly Mean Water Level (ft IGLD)
Mar-21 Apr-21 May-21 Jun-21 Jul-21 Aug-21
1971 601.80 601.93 602.34 602.71 602.86 602.89
1996 601.80 601.91 602.30 602.71 603.04 603.26
2008 601.76 601.94 602.31 602.66 602.99 603.00
2011 601.74 601.79 602.13 602.46 602.69 602.72
Ensemble Median 601.80 601.90 602.19 602.45 602.63 602.70
Long Term Average 601.18 601.28 601.61 601.87 602.10 602.17
Long Term Maximum 602.40 602.62 602.92 603.15 603.22 603.22
Long Term Minimum 599.54 599.48 599.61 599.90 600.26 600.43

Lake Michigan-Huron

Monthly Mean Water Level (ft IGLD)
Mar-21 Apr-21 May-21 Jun-21 Jul-21 Aug-21
1971 580.65 580.88 581.12 581.22 581.25 581.17
1996 580.48 580.65 581.11 581.50 581.72 581.68
2008 580.56 580.84 581.22 581.51 581.72 581.58
2011 580.63 580.97 581.46 581.76 581.83 581.66
Ensemble Median 580.61 580.80 581.07 581.22 581.27 581.20
Long Term Average 578.48 578.74 579.07 579.30 579.40 579.33
Long Term Maximum 581.43 581.69 581.96 582.19 582.22 582.09
Long Term Minimum 576.05 576.15 576.57 576.64 576.71 576.67

Lake St. Clair

Monthly Mean Water Level (ft IGLD)
Mar-21 Apr-21 May-21 Jun-21 Jul-21 Aug-21
1971 575.97 576.07 576.09 576.18 576.09 575.98
1996 575.81 576.07 576.53 576.93 576.95 576.75
2008 576.12 576.49 576.56 576.71 576.82 576.60
2011 576.36 576.83 577.47 577.61 577.44 577.11
Ensemble Median 575.93 576.19 576.36 576.45 576.42 576.28
Long Term Average 573.92 574.34 574.64 574.80 574.87 574.74
Long Term Maximum 576.87 577.13 577.36 577.49 577.56 577.33
Long Term Minimum 571.03 571.92 572.24 572.34 572.51 572.21

Lake Erie

Monthly Mean Water Level (ft IGLD)
Mar-21 Apr-21 May-21 Jun-21 Jul-21 Aug-21
1971 572.83 573.04 573.13 573.16 573.05 572.86
1996 572.82 573.16 573.61 574.06 574.14 573.80
2008 573.14 573.75 573.83 573.81 573.86 573.60
2011 573.21 574.13 574.84 575.02 574.67 574.26
Ensemble Median 572.87 573.27 573.55 573.60 573.51 573.29
Long Term Average 571.19 571.65 571.95 572.05 571.98 571.78
Long Term Maximum 573.98 574.31 574.41 574.61 574.57 574.21
Long Term Minimum 568.24 568.83 569.03 569.06 569.06 569.00

Detroit District Disclaimer

NOTICE: All data contained herein is preliminary in nature and therefore subject to change. The data is for general information purposes ONLY and SHALL NOT be used in technical applications such as, but not limited to, studies or designs. All critical data should be obtained from and verified by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District, Engineering and Technical Services, Great Lakes Hydraulics and Hydrology Office, 477 Michigan Ave., Detroit, MI 48226. The United States of America assumes no liability for the completeness or accuracy of the data contained herein and any use of such data inconsistent with this disclaimer shall be solely at the risk of the user.