Climate Hysteria and Flooding in the Great Lakes

Climate Hysteria and Flooding in the Great Lakes

Once again, the Great Lakes are cited as proof of climate change. This time because of high water levels. A few years ago, it was because of low water levels.

One article from the National Geographic a few years ago was titled, Down the Drain, The Incredible Shrinking Great Lakes, with the notation:

“The Great Lakes hold a fifth of Earth’s surface fresh water, and they’ve shrunk dramatically. If it keeps up, shipping and fisheries could be left high and dry.

Now, a Wall Street Journal article infers high water levels are because of climate change. High waters are hurting homeowners, but, contrary to the WSJ article, it’s not because of climate change. Quoting the WSJ:

Rising Great Lakes Pose Peril

The article quotes a professor: “Drew Gronewold, an associate professor at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability. He said the warming climate is exacerbating both precipitation and evaporation, the two main forces affecting lake levels.

Actually, the professor is wrong. The historic record, maintained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) proves there have been periods of equally high water levels and abrupt water level changes in the past… Long before the first climate change report in 1979, i.e., The Charney Report.

A quick glance at the accompanying record for all the Great Lakes from 1918 to 2019, proves this to be a fact. 

And the changes from high-to-low water during two earlier periods, between 1929 and 1934, and between 1952 and 1959, were virtually the same as the “abrupt” change cited in the WSJ article for the years between 2013 and 2019. 

NOAA Website

The accompanying table of when earlier high water levels occurred also shows that high water levels were spread across multiple years. (Levels in feet)

Why didn’t the reporter research the record to see whether the current levels were historically unusual? 

More importantly, why didn’t the WSJ editor insist that the reporter do the research to be certain the article was accurate?

. . .



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16 Replies to “Climate Hysteria and Flooding in the Great Lakes”

  1. I bought my Lake Erie house in Feb.1996 and in May 1996 the water was within 1 inch of getting in the main house. Then for the next 10 years the water went down to the point we had to dredge our channel to get our boats out to the lake. Now the water is back up to the 1996 levels. The old timers say this is normal and happens on a 20 to 30 year cycle. So in about 10 years it will be back to it’s low level. Some people blame every disaster on climate change with no facts to prove.

  2. Donn,
    Nice reply to the uninformed Associate Professor. I sailed the Lakes during a few seasons and have relatives whose entire careers have been aboard a Laker. Long before we knew how to spell Global Warming the Lake level variations were either flooding some home-owner’s kitchen or their boat dock was high and dry.


    • Thanks. It’s amazing how reporters and others ascribe natural events to global warming.

  3. Most reporters today only read what suits their preconceived notions. Usually, the Journal is better than that.

    • Thanks for your comment.
      There was a time when the WSJ only printed facts and could be believed. Starting about two years ago, I noticed a definite shift to the left. It’s very unfortunate that the WSJ can no longer be relied on to report the news without editorial comment and bias.

  4. It’s all a matter of how cold the winters are, how much ice is on the lake during the winter and thusly, how much evaporation takes place. That is cyclical as well.

    • Thanks for the comments.
      Ice coverage and evaporation are factors, however, I suspect that precipitation is the greatest factor.
      In thinking about ice coverage, I’m not sure how that affects evaporation. At first blush, it would seem as though there would be less evaporation with ice coverage, but I’m not sure if that’s true. With ice coverage there is also sublimation. In addition, when the ice melts there will be evaporation with the melting.
      It would be interesting if there has been a study on this subject.
      Please let us know if you know of a study that can answer the question.

      • See a Great Lakes Integrated Sciences report of 2011 (before the current lake-level rise)
        http:// pdf.
        The first section of which is “Great Lakes Water Levels: The Critical Role of Evaporation”. It says:
        The highest evaporation rates on the Great Lakes typically occur in late fall and early winter, when conditions are much colder. This is because evaporation is not directly driven by warm air temperatures, but instead by warm water temperatures. More specifically, high evaporation requires three factors: 1) a large temperature difference between water and air (i.e., warm water and cold air), 2) low relative humidity, and 3) high wind speeds. If all three ingredients are present, as often occurs in the fall and winter, evaporation rates from the Great Lakes can get as high as 0.4-0.6 inches per day. To put this number in perspective, a 1-day loss of 0.5 inches of water from the total surface area of the Great Lakes (94,250 mi2) represents a volumetric flow rate of 820 billion gallons per day–nearly 20 times the flow rate of Niagara Falls.
        Warming temperatures in recent decades have led to significant declines in the duration and extent of Great Lakes ice cover, with correspondingly longer periods of open water… At the same time, significant increases in summer water temperature have been observed in the Great Lakes, particularly since the early 1980s.
        The implication being, of course that rising lake levels are more consistent with a cooling climate or local climate than with a warming climate. But of course, when science degenerates to a strategy of claiming dibs on particular phenomena, who’s to say they can’t have it both ways? /s

        • I tried using the link and it didn’t work.
          The evaporation rates noted in the quotation are impressive.Spread over a period of several days they would have an effect on water levels.
          To fully understand the effect, however, we would need more information as to how this compares with earlier years.
          Taken at face value, it should mean that water levels should be higher than reported.
          Placing this in context of over 100 years experience is hard to do without a great deal more evidence from prior years.
          Very interesting, and many thanks.

  5. This discussion must also consider the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the US and Canada. This agreement has led the participants to maintain higher water levels in the lakes for the sake of restoring historic wetlands and improving shipping. New York State discussed suing the GLWQA for its role in flooding on Lake Erie. Their policies restricted the amount of water flowing through dams and locks over the winter to reduce spring flooding.

    • Thanks. Thea’s an interesting observation. I had not paid much attention to it so looked it up to see what it covered. A quick glance showed that much of the act focused on water quality and preventing invasive species, though there were areas of concern. There was also a section on preventing the consequences of climate change which is obviously a political statement from the previous administration and Canada’s preoccupation with it.
      I’ll have to look closer to see how much effect the act has had. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

        • Great. Excellent resource. Many thanks.
          I ned to read the entire paper, but the information is clearly useful.
          I have now read the entire paper, and it is very interesting. The effirt to measure evaporation is well worth the time and expense.
          One quote from the report with respect to climate change is interesting. “The net result will be persistently lower water levels for the Great Lakes.”
          Low water levels are not the current issue, high water is.
          I think it’s premature to draw any valid conclusions about the interrelationship between climate change and evaporation until several years, possibly a decade or two, of new, accurate data is obtained.
          Conjecturing, i.e, what ifs, is inappropriate until there is more data. The report cites a specific short time period, for only one lake, and even here the amount of level change was not very significant.

          • One of the more interesting observations of the study is that “Most of the energy for evaporation comes from solar radiation, but the primary solar input occurs roughly five months prior to the annual peak in evaporation. Thus, there are important leads and lags in the Lake Superior system, and this leads to complexities in the atmospheric controls on Great Lakes evaporation.” This perhaps reflects the inertia of the system.
            It seems to me (as a non-professional) that the Great Lakes represents an important but unrecognized proxy for the climate system. The water stores great amounts of solar heat, mixes it fairly well, both horizontally and vertically, and has but very few significant human sources of heat input. They are large enough to influence the climate of adjacent lands but small enough to be isolated from vast ocean currents with unknown periods. Being of significant international concern they are also quite well studied, with records for ice cover, water temperatures and lake levels going back many years. Further those records seem not to have been subject to the adjustments like land temperature records, and the international treaties and competing interests tend to keep the science honest, with disputes substantially aired and resolved in public.
            Perhaps more significance should be accorded to them.

          • Interesting observations.
            I agree the data is clean, for the reasons you cited.
            Whether it is a proxy for climate change, is another matter. I’m inclined not to think so. Water levels have been rising and falling for over 100 years so they can’t be a proxy, and I don’t see what else would be.
            Interesting thought however.