How high are Lake Huron water levels?
Lake Huron sets monthly records for high lake levels
Lake Huron has not reached the record-high levels of October 1986 but it has reached monthly records in 2020. In 2020, Lake Huron broke the all-time record for the month of July. It has already broken the all-time record for the month of June and the month of May.
Water levels have been this high before but the impacts of current high levels, such as erosion and bluff instability, mean that people want lake levels go down. “We all hope that the 1986 record is not exceeded,” said Daniel King, Regulations Coordinator with Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA). “We hope lake levels trend downward so we don’t have increased impacts on existing development.”
Download graph of summary of monthly average water levels, record lows and record highs in summer months, June-August:
- Summary of monthly average water levels, record lows and record highs in summer months, June-August (Medium-sized 100 KB PDF)
Canadian data suggest there may be a seasonal drop in autumn lake levels. A July 2 forecast, from National Hydrological Services, indicates it is unlikely Lake Huron will break the all-time water level record in 2020 (it was still outside the 95 per cent confidence level in the forecast).
This year (2020), Lake Huron reached its highest water level, on record, for the month of July. The highest lake level for the month was 177.45 metres (or 582.18 feet). Lake Huron was 10 centimetres above its record value for the month of May. Environment and Climate Change Canada’s LEVELnews publication reported, in their June 2020 report, “... (all) the Great Lakes were above average during May 2020, with both Lakes Michigan-Huron and Erie exceeding their record high monthly level for a fourth month in a row.”
Going forward, Lake Huron’s water level may surpass or tie its monthly mean record high levels until August and, according to forecasts, be only 5.08 cm (2 inches) below record highs in September.
Lake Huron water levels reached their highest mark almost three and a half decades ago when lakes Huron and Michigan reached 177.50 metres or 582.35 feet above sea level. That was the highest mark for a monthly average water level since record-keeping in 1918. Now, in 2020, we are just below that mark. Lake Huron is currently reaching its seasonal high and is projected to decline by 2.5 cm by August.
Lake Michigan-Huron is recognized as the largest lake in the world by surface area. Lakes Michigan and Huron are connected through the deep Straits of Mackinac. Thus, they are considered to function as one and have the same water levels. Water levels in the lake are dependent predominantly on precipitation, runoff, and evaporation. In terms of changes by season, during the year, higher levels typically occur in late spring and early summer from spring runoff and increased rainfall. During autumn and winter months water levels usually decline as cold, dry air moves over the warm lakes, which causes high rates of evaporation. The larger the difference in temperature between the air and water, the greater the evaporation.
Lake Huron’s water level has gone up and down and up again. After reaching a record high in 1986, the lake later reached a record low, in January of 2013, of 175.57 metres (576.02 feet). Now we’re back at almost all-time high levels. This year (2020), Lake Huron reached its highest water level, on record, for the month of July. The highest lake level for the month was 177.45 metres (or 582.18 feet).
How can you find out more about water levels? In addition to LEVELnews (a Canadian newsletter that provides a monthly update on Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River water levels), Environment and Climate Change Canada also has a web page with links to a number of official websites containing Great Lakes water level and related data:
Ausable Bayfield Conservation and the Healthy Lake Huron partnership are sharing some more materials on the topic of water levels and water level impacts and fact sheets with practical and positive actions property owners can take. These fact sheets include bluff and shoreline stability (PDF) and fact sheets about adding vegetation. Visit healthylakehuron.ca and abca.ca to learn more.