2016-11-10 / Life in Leelanau

Lake Michigan temps well above seasonal average

While it’s probably too cold for swimming, Lake Michigan’s temperature is well ahead of previous years.

The average surface temperature of Lake Michigan as of Tuesday was 56 degrees — more than four degrees warmer than a year ago and nearly a whopping nine degrees warmer than the same date in 2014.

Meanwhile, water levels in the big lake remain about 10 inches above historic norms, and are forecast to remain higher than the average at least through April.

However, water levels are forecast to slip in the spring.

Due to seasonal shifts, water levels in the Lake Michigan-Lake Huron basin continued to fall last month as they do this time every year before rising in the spring to levels that remain eight to 10 inches above the long term average.

Levels in the spring of 2017, however, could be about six inches below water levels seen around the same time this year.


WATER LEVELS recorded in the Lake Michigan-Lake Huron basin remain above historic averages. In the graph above, water levels are shown with a solid line that spreads into vertical lines indicating a range of probably levels in the future. Long term average levels are shown with a dash. Record highs and lows with the year they are recorded are also given. WATER LEVELS recorded in the Lake Michigan-Lake Huron basin remain above historic averages. In the graph above, water levels are shown with a solid line that spreads into vertical lines indicating a range of probably levels in the future. Long term average levels are shown with a dash. Record highs and lows with the year they are recorded are also given. According to a report released last week by the Army Corps of Engineers Great Lakes hydrology office in Detroit, the basin received near-average precipitation in October. The “net basin supply” of water, which represents the combined effects of precipitation, evaporation, and runoff to the lake, was below average, the report said.

Last month’s water levels were 10 inches above long term average levels recorded between 1918 and 2015.

Water levels are forecast to be slightly lower in 2017 than in 2016. By January 2017, water levels will be about two inches lower than they were in January 2016, and by April 2017 will be about six inches below levels seen in April 2016.

Meanwhile, surface water temperatures in Lake Michigan are unusually high this fall. Last week, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported the Lake Michigan surface water temperature at 56.2 degrees Fahrenheit.

In early November 2012, the water temperature was 50-degrees Fahrenheit, rising to 51 degrees in November 2013.

Water temperatures were way down to 48.5 degrees Fahrenheit in early November 2014. More ice was seen on Lake Michigan in the winters of 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 than was seen in the previous 10 years combined.

With surface water temperatures so much warmer than average, no one is betting on seeing the big lake freeze over this winter.

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