Contrary to Global Warming Predictions, Great Lakes Water Levels Now at Record Highs

From Dr. Roy Spencer’s blog

June 27th, 2019 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

It is a truism that any observed change in nature will be blamed by some experts on global warming (aka “climate change”, “climate crisis”, “climate emergency”).

When the Great Lakes water levels were unusually low from approximately 2000 through 2012 or so, this was pointed to as evidence that global warming was causing the Great Lakes to dry up.

Take for example this 2012 article from National Geographic, which was accompanied by this startling photo:

The accompanying text called this the “lake bottom”, as if Lake Michigan (which averages 279 feet deep) had somehow dried up.

Then in a matter of two years, low lake levels were replaced with high lake levels. The cause (analysis here) was a combination of unusually high precipitation (contrary to global warming theory) and an unusually cold winter that caused the lakes to mostly freeze over, reducing evaporation.

Now, as of this month (June, 2019), ALL of the Great Lakes have reached record high levels.

Time To Change The Story

So, how shall global warming alarmists explain this observational defiance of their predictions?

Simple! They just invoke “climate weirding”, and claim that the climate emergency has caused water levels to become more erratic, to see-saw, to become more variable!

The trouble is that there is that there is no good evidence in the last 100 years that this is happening. This plot of the four major lake systems (Huron and Michigan are at the same level, connected at the Straits of Mackinac) shows no increased variability since levels have been accurately monitored (data from NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory):

GLERL-lake-water-levels-2-550x413

This is just one more example of how unscientific many global warming claims have become. Both weather and climate are nonlinear dynamical systems, capable of producing changes without any ‘forcing’ from increasing CO2 or the Sun. Change is normal.

What is abnormal is blaming every change in nature we don’t like on human activities. That’s what happened in medieval times, when witches were blamed for storms, droughts, etc.

One would hope we progressed beyond that mentality.

59 thoughts on “Contrary to Global Warming Predictions, Great Lakes Water Levels Now at Record Highs

  1. ” Both weather and climate are nonlinear dynamical systems”, I’d say it’s a nonlinear, chaotic, dynamical system. The chaos part is why computer models suck. IMO

      • I grew up in Michigan. As a child, a couple seasons had low water table inland and low Great Lakes levels. Lots of crying and moaning. The elderly fellow who rented our family his lake cottages told me “These children never learn any history. The lakes have a low water cycle every fifty years. I’ve seen it twice in my life and my parents saw it before”. We now own property on the same lake. I was there for the last low water cycle almost exactly fifty years after the last water dip.

    • Since we are coming out of the last ice age and glaciers are receding that previously locked up water has now entered the hydrological cycle. Here in BC Canada i am seeing previuosly dry ponds filled with fresh water. This will also create more cloud cover. That should help reflect sunlight back up helping to reduce solar energy. I think humanity is in for some good times ahead. The extra water and co2vis helping to green up the planet including our food crops.

    • Lake Michigan is 975 feet deep at its deepest. Just because there’s a sandy beach some place, e.g., the Indiana Dunes or Chicago, it does NOT mean the lake is drying up. The people who do and say these things are charlatans of the worst kind. They should be taken to task for it.

      This is utter hogwash.

          • No. The big drought in USA has not started yet. But it is coming up, just about now….

            I take this opportunity to again warn you all about the big drought times coming to the great plains of America. You can see what the reason is: the continued lower solar polar magnetic field strengths allow more of the most energetic particles to be released from the sun. On earth, we are protected from these particles as they are involved in the creation of ozone, peroxides and N-oxides [hence , do not go to to Mars before you have created an atmosphere].
            However, more ozone & others mean less UV (i.e. less heat) going into the oceans. Les evaporation = less rain.
            We clearly see the repetitiveness of the coming droughts, namely every 87-90 years,
            2019\ possible start of the coming drought / we already had a very dry summer 2018 in Europe/
            1932-1939 Dust Bowl drought. This was one of the biggest disasters in the history of the USA…
            1845-1856 Apparently the drought times were so severe that it seriously affected the Bison population..
            1755 – There is evidence of special tax concessions made in Virginia due to the drought…
            Again, I am not the first person who figured out the periodicity of the coming drought times. Before they started with the CO2 nonsense there were at least two reports who also found the 90 year periodicity of drought times in the USA.
            See here:
            https://documentcloud.adobe.com/link/track?uri=urn:aaid:scds:US:d6ec23b0-6f50-4758-b93f-80dfdbe4e289

          • HenryP,

            [hence , do not go to to Mars before you have created an atmosphere].

            Or always carry your personal magnetic field with you.

          • Johann

            I am afraid a magnetic shield won’t do it.
            The most energetic particles from the sun are ‘filtered’ out [i.e. not hitting your hat/head] by our atmosphere. Otherwise we’d all be dead.
            They hit on our oxygen, nitrogen and water radicals above us forming ozone, N-Oxides and peroxides, respectively. Hence, don’t go to Mars until you have created an earth-like atmosphere.

            BTW there never was a ozone ‘hole’. It is filled with peroxides, rather than ozone. And the peroxides are doing exactly the same thing as the ozone….protecting us from harmful UV-C…

  2. Vain hope.
    We have no evidence we have “progressed” at all.
    The enlightenment seems to have slumped into the idiocene.
    Emoting now being the highest order of civic discourse.

    The list of things caused by Global Warming is infinite,contradictory and pure superstition.

    Ignorance is the common factor,uniting the Cult of Calamitous Climate.
    “OH Susanna” should be their theme song.

  3. Excellent closing point Dr Spencer. We have come full cycle and this secular religion also known by many climate names and once called Global Warming has led believers to call for bad things to be done to the unbelievers they deride as Deniers. Let the dunking begin.

    • “Let the dunking begin.”

      Don’t worry Bill, they’re incapable of organizing a dunking, even though they do know how to keep the Earth’s temperature down to 1.5 degrees from where it is now, apparently.

      • But these bureaucrats are capable of organizing climate conferences in attractive vacation destinations while relaxing in the finest 5 star hotels and eating at Michelin Guide 3 star restaurants.

        These folks have the proper government backing, institutional control and social media backing to make life very difficult for honest scientists.

        Today its kneel at the altar or starve. Tomorrow they plan on building the dunking chairs right after they return from their next publicity tour.

        As for earths temperature these POLITICAL scientists don’t need to actually control it they just manipulate the input data and let their computer models report what they need them to be. The people actually orchestrating this scam are not as stupid as you believe them to be. They read Orwell’s “1984” as a users manual.

  4. How do global warming alarmists explain the rise in the level of the Great Lakes? They don’t. They ignore it and pass on to some new observational fad. This is how they deal with the mounting pile of failed predictions and alarms. They ignore it and move on.

    • nicholas

      The sudden rise in the level of Lake Ontario in May was caused by shutting off the outlet on the East end. This was done because of the flooding of Montreal caused by high water coming down from Ottawa, which suffered a lot in the Spring melt in the Gatineau Hills.

      The level of Lake Ontario was reasonable in March, then shot up 2 feet in a short time equalling (at least) the level two years ago. The first time was basically caused by mismanagement, in the expectation of a perpetual drought. The combined outflow of the Ottawa and St Laurence Rivers was too much this year to avoid flooding of lower portions of Montreal. If the lake hadn’t been bunged the flooding would have been much worse.

      None of this mismanagement of lakes and rivers made it into the press. Everyone pretends it is completely natural, meaning, unnatural because it was caused by climate disruption, meaning human caused, which is true, but by turning valves, not emitting CO2. If Canada and the USA can screw up the St Laurence Seaway management, they can screw up anything.

      • Lake Ontario majority volume rate seems to be the output product of the rest of the Great Lakes along with some from the Lake Ontario region. Ontario is essentially reservoir management if there is indeed an outflow moveable weir in place at the East end. The rest of the Great Lakes has had record precipitation in the last year which probably puts the management of the Ontario outflow in a tough place. Their question then likely becomes, do we flood Ontario or do we flood St. Lawrence Seaway?

  5. Dr. Spencer

    Thank you for the post.

    The Great Lakes have been near and dear to my heart for more than 3/4 of a century, first Lake Erie and for even longer, Lake Huron, mostly at the 45th Parallel, Canadian side.
    To add to your remarks, the lowest recorded levels for the Great Lakes was in 1964 and the highest, until this summer was in 1986; a span of 22 years. After 1986, the water levels went down and now they have returned. As you stated, evaporation provides the greatest water loss, in the neighborhood of 80+%, mostly during the winter with the dry Arctic air blowing over the relatively warmer water, that is, until the ice freezes the Lakes over. I watch the Lakes freeze over via Environment Canada Ice report. More fun than watching paint dry. Kidding aside, ice thickness and ice character as presented via the “egg” plots are informative yet, a bit of a slog for me though.

    It seems to me that the “Environmental activist” folks have a lot of influence on the narrative for climate and the Great Lakes, particularly those occupying the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Juxtaposing the alarming press releases with my own observational experiences makes me wonder if some of those Wolverines ever leave their ivory tower.

    Paying for answers doesn’t necessarily mean one gets correct answers. Pays your money, takes your chances.

      • marque 2

        Thanks for the link

        I have bookmarked it. I like it for its current temperatures which I see, and dipping my toe in this morning to adjust the floating dock to current climate change, the water is still quite cold.

        Observation = NOAA data report. good to know

    • “One would hope we progressed beyond that mentality.

      We have but they have not.”

      Unfortunately John and Roy, this is not true. Darwinian evolution does not work that quickly and I doubt that it is within 3 orders of magnitude, and that assumes that it is working in the right direction, which it appears to me not to be.

    • Progress is a ruse. Our tools got better, but we are no different than our ancestors who painted cave walls.

  6. I was shocked to see a report by eminent climate scientists claim that global warming was responsible for rising water levels. Some of the very same scientists had claimed previously (before 2013) that lake levels were declining because of global warming.

  7. I was just at Lake Michigan near South Haven. About 20 feet of the beach underwater from the last time I was there last year.

  8. “One would hope we progressed beyond that mentality.

    Climate change is no longer about science or facts anyway. It’s about messaging. It is why universities like Yale now have programs in climate communications, sophisticated merging of marketing, communications, and journalism for propaganda to support a political ideology. Much in the same way the Liberal Arts schools at most universities now are all totally junk political indoctrination centers, where true scholar has been replaced with “woke-ness” and “justice” themes. So we may have progressed from witches, but now an evil Big Oil and the “carbon pollution” idiocy, it is no less magical thinking about a minor trace gas increase.

    Climate change is no longer about science with Trillion$ of OPM at stake in the re-distribution from the large middle-class to GreenSlime billionaire investors like Tom Steyer. The Greenslimers will fund any and all propaganda and climate dis-information campaign efforts to keep the scam alive and running. Call it a marketing cost, a- leveraged investment, if you like.

    For the Democrats who are the water-carriers for Steyer, Bloomberg, it is about power — raw political power, like the Democrats have now in California and Oregon. Only the pesky state and Federal Constitutions stand in their way, but rest assured they are working on those.

    • “Global warming” and “Climate Change” alarmism was never about the environment – it was always about total control by the far-left – totalitarianism.

  9. The Great Lakes provide potable water to 40 million people. In wet years, demand is lower in part because people water their lawns less, which swings water levels even higher. In dry years, demand is higher in part because people water their lawns more, which swings water levels even lower. The largest user by far is Michigan, which went from 225 million gallons per day in 2015 (down from over 300 in 2013) back to around 320 for 2016 and 2017.

    Of course, about 95% of Great Lakes withdrawals are related to hydroelectric power generation. Almost all of this is returned to the sourcewaters, but some is lost.

    Regardless, the Great Lake levels are not just dependent on rainfall and evapotranspiration.

    • 320 million gallons is 982 acre-feet. Lake Michigan’s surface area is 22,394 square miles, or 14.3 million acres. One day’s draw at 320 million gallons will reduce the lake’s depth by 6.9E-7 feet, or 0.00082 inches. Over a year, that’s 0.3 inches. The difference between 225 million and 320 million gpd is 42%, or 0.13 inches. There isn’t any way one could measure that with confidence.

      • People pretend to measure sea levels with such confidence…and granted, it is even smaller since much of that eventually makes its way back as treated wastewater.

        As noted, 95% is for hydroelectric power generation (Michigan’s 320 MGD is part of the other 5%). There’s annual variation in that due to weather as well.

  10. Re. Joel O’Brien, June 29. I agree 100 per cent. But what is the long
    term goal of the US Democrats i.e. the U.S. Labour Party. Is it low
    key socialism just as with the new Labour Opposition here in Australia
    following the New “Liberal “” Federal Governments victory, or is it still
    long term a World Government i.e. Communism ?

    MJE VK5ELL

  11. I just went back to my home town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and drove along M35 on the north shore of Lake Michigan while a south wind was blowing. Some of the lake shore homes had waves flooding lawns. A violent thunderstorm could easily have waves over M35.

    The big danger for the homeowners is a big south wind when the winter ice breaks up.

  12. Along with the Great Lakes rebounding:
    Lake Powell and Lake Mead are rebounding;
    The Texas Drought is long gone.
    The California Drought is gone.
    Aquifers are filled.
    The entire west is nearly entirely without any drought.
    The US as a whole has the least drought in many years.
    Snow remains and river flow in much of the west is still spring like.

  13. “When the Great Lakes water levels were unusually low from approximately 2000 through 2012 or so, this was pointed to as evidence that global warming was causing the Great Lakes to dry up.

    Take for example this 2012 article from National Geographic, which was accompanied by this startling photo:”

    “this was pointed to” Notice the passive voice and no citation to actual science

    National geographic Aint science.

    ‘Experts blame the recent low water on the unusually warm and dry weather over the past year. Rain events in October, including Hurricane Sandy, delayed the inevitable, but forecasters predict Lakes Superior, Michigan, and Huron will likely reach historic low levels in the late fall or winter, a time of year that the lakes are normally already dropping due to high rates of evaporation.”

    Well is Dr Spencer right?
    Does this national geographic ( not peer reviewed science of course) article say that the lakes will dry up?

    NO.

    Jesus love me for a sunbeam Spencer cant even read

    ‘With nearly 20% of the world’s surface freshwater at play and millions invested in restoration efforts, the stakes are incredibly high for understanding how natural climate variability and human-induced climate change affect the Great Lakes.

    The IUGLS evaluated the impacts of climate change on lake levels in the Great Lakes region with state-of-the-art climate research. Projections suggest that “lake levels are likely to continue to fluctuate, but still remain within a relatively narrow historical range – while lower levels are likely, the possibility of higher levels cannot be dismissed.” Nevin explained it another way. “Low lake levels are not a new normal,” he said. “We expect to see lake levels fluctuate as we have in the past.”

    That’s what the science said.

    Dummy Spencer links to an article that refutes his claim

    • A picture of a dry lake is worth a thousand words. Methinks SM is picking nits. NG chose an alarming picture to convey a message that the lake could dry up due to us humans and our CO2.

      • If only thing he can do is nitpicking, he must pick nits. With stupid ad hominem, of course.
        Very, very low disgustoid creature.

    • Steven Mosher says:
      ‘Dummy Spencer …’
      ‘Jesus love me…’

      Must say:\ no. Jesus is not with you in/on this?

      Jesus said: anyone who says: “You fool” will be in danger of the fire of hell. Matt. 5:22

    • Mr. Mosher,

      You fail to mention that immediately following the paragraph you quoted was a large highlighted paragraph that dramatically stands out:

      “IN THE LAKE SUPERIOR BASIN, HOWEVER, INCREASING EVAPORATION OVER THE PAST 60 YEARS HAS NOT BEEN COMPENSATED FOR BY INCREASED PRECIPITATION. AS A RESULT, THE WATER SUPPLY HAS BEEN DECLINING IN GENERAL IN THE BASIN. THIS TREND IS CONSISTENT WITH THE CURRENT UNDERSTANDING OF CLIMATE CHANGE. UNLESS CHANGES IN THE PRECIPITATION REGIME OCCUR, WHICH IS POSSIBLE, [NET BASIN SUPPLY] IN LAKE SUPERIOR WILL CONTINUE TO DECLINE, ON AVERAGE, DESPITE THE POSSIBILITY OF HIGHER SUPPLIES AT TIMES.”

      and that highlighted paragraph is prefaced by this remark:

      The IUGLS acknowledges that despite uncertainties in the models used, “it is clear that evaporation is increasing and likely will increase for the foreseeable future.” The study further states, “Analysis indicates that in the Lake Michigan-Huron basin this increased evaporation is being largely offset by increases in local precipitation.” The outlook for Lake Superior is more cautious:

      Why did you feel a need to denigrate Dr. Spencer to make your point, and why did you leave out the more prominent quote?

      Joe in NY

      • In 1967 the lakes were really low and I imagined that it would take a lifetime to recover, young fool that I was. They are high now. So what? Nothing unusual about any of this.

        The excess level in Lake Ontario is a result of human interference in the flood gates to save Montreal from flooding more homes that are being flooded by the Ottawa River which is very high this year. It is high due to…the long cold, snowy winter.

    • Mosh, you answered your own question – and failed to realize you answered it as well (so much for reading – OR writing – comprehension):

      “Experts blame the recent low water on the unusually warm and dry weather over the past year. Rain events in October, including Hurricane Sandy, delayed the inevitable, but forecasters predict Lakes Superior, Michigan, and Huron will likely reach historic low levels in the late fall or winter, a time of year that the lakes are normally already dropping due to high rates of evaporation.”

      Low water is blamed in warm and dry weather for the last year. Rain (including a hurricane) just ‘delayed the inevitable’ drop that was coming. In other words, the lakes are disappearing, it’s been happening for a while, and even the recent rains and hurricane can’t stop it. The lakes are going away.

      And you poke fun at others being unable to understand simple sentences? Really?

    • Well, Stephen, you as usual missed the point in the post. In your haste to condemn real scientists you show your true colors.
      Come back when you have something intelligent to say.

  14. While I can see problems with the story at conversation.com, particularly the idea that the rapid changes in water level represent the “new normal” and that the lakes were “undoubtedly” being affected by climate change, I didn’t get the impression that they said the lake levels had already exhibited greater variability in a “see-saw” fashion. My sense is that they were impressed by a relatively rapid shift from extreme low to extreme high levels. It’s kind of an interesting article, even if it is precipitous is its conclusions.

    According to the article, some scientists had proposed that the low water levels would continue to decline. This is not the same as saying that they were “global warming predictions” in a general sense. This is exactly why the IPCC has ratings of likelihood and confidence level: the hypotheses of a few scientists should not be treated as predictions. Scientists can be wrong, that’s a given. When they are, it should be an opportunity to learn, not an excuse to bash the whole field.

    ” The cause (analysis here) was a combination of unusually high precipitation (contrary to global warming theory)” Is this contrary to global warming theory? From what I’ve read, the theory is that areas that are already wet will become wetter, and that there will be more intense precipitation events due to increased ability of warm air to hold water. The latter has been observed at least in some regions; I don’t know about the former.

    Anyone can find articles that are problematic. The question is whether these represent the whole of those written about climate science. When the problematic articles are the only ones that get discussed on a site, naturally it will seem like they are representative, but that’s a false assumption. This isn’t even based on research paper, as far as I can tell. Everyone knows (or ought to) that the media are not the best place to go for truth about climate science – it’s warranted to distrust the media, but that doesn’t mean climate research in general should be distrusted.

    The media reports on the science. Policy should be made in view of the science. As much as people may assert that the science has been corrupted by political concerns (and it probably is in individual cases), there is no evidence showing that is generally true. All it is, is assumption. I know I’ll get flack for this. I know I will change no one’s mind, and I’m tired of arguing about it. I just wanted to point out that this little post is, in my view, not wholly accurate based on the link provided. This seems to be a pattern on this site, which to my mind is a good reason to be skeptical of what’s written here. People should be skeptical of the posts on any site that is obviously biased, regardless of the direction the bias takes. That’s what skepticism is all about!

    If skeptics want to be called skeptics, they need to live up to their name. Anyone who has made up their mind about a question is no longer a skeptic regarding it.

  15. We here in Australia, have had government climate change experts! Scientists paid 500k salaries per year predicting doom and gloom for decades!! And what of it ? Not one of those predictions have ever come true !! Its all about wealth distribution, socialism, heavily invested individuals , companies , have invested in renewables !! Trillions!! Alot is at stake. And propaganda is only the start , of the enforcement .these are troubling times ….

  16. “Fallacy of Insufficient Sample”: All who have brought less than 100 years of climate data to the climate debate, just be quiet and reserve judgement. Data generated over such short time periods does not seem relevant when compared to Earth cycles. Can we please use longer time increments with climate discussions?

    Lake Erie: I sit on Lake Erie and it is currently setting a 100 year record. The whole Lake Erie system seems based on what dumps in via precipitation either evaporating or being able to flow past the Buffalo, NY to Squaw Island flow zone.

  17. I spend the summers on the eastern shore of Lake Huron, in Southampton, ON. Parts of the shore road will be in big trouble if any significant gales occur in the fall or winter.

  18. Of course there’s been much fake climate calamity with the claim that the Great Lakes are being lowered by global warming.

    https://www.csgmidwest.org/policyresearch/0213glclimate.aspx
    Record-low water levels, rise in algal blooms among concerns linked to changing Great Lakes climate
    by Tim Anderson ~ February 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
    and…….
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/water-levels-of-the-great-lakes-are-declining/
    and
    https://www.cleveland.com/weather/blog/2017/08/how_is_climate_change_affectin.html
    “Rising temperatures could lower water levels in the lakes, intensify harmful algal blooms and threaten fish and wildlife.”

    But now, and not surprisingly, the lakes are approaching record high levels and global warming is to blame.
    https://abc57.com/news/concern-growing-over-rising-lake-level
    … at 1:34 in that news video a meteorologist asserts global warming is now to blame for rising lake levels.
    and….
    https://www.newyorkupstate.com/weather/2019/05/is-climate-change-to-blame-for-lake-ontarios-alarming-water-levels.html

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/high-water-levels-on-great-lakes-flood-towns-shrink-beaches-11558517400
    High water levels across the Great Lakes are being driven primarily by persistently wet conditions for the past five to six years, including heavy rains and a large snowpack, said Keith Kompoltowicz, chief of watershed hydrology for the Army Corps in Detroit. And they follow low or record-low levels on the lakes in 2013.
    “There aren’t too many instances of those very fast rises in just a couple of years,” Mr. Kompoltowicz said.

  19. What this article is evidence of is your incredible poor reading comprehension skills. The article to which you link: https://blog.nationalgeographic.org/2012/11/20/warming-lakes-climate-change-and-variability-drive-low-water-levels-on-the-great-lakes/ NEVER EVER says that global warming is causing the great lakes to shrink. In fact, the phrase global warming does not even appear in that article. But your lack of reading skills failed to notice that.

    Rather it says: This extended period of low water raises questions about whether climate change is contributing to declining lake levels, but the Corps maintains the position that it’s difficult to know, because the lakes continue to fluctuate within their normal range.
    AND
    This extended period of low water raises questions about whether climate change is contributing to declining lake levels, but the Corps maintains the position that it’s difficult to know, because the lakes continue to fluctuate within their normal range.

    The only DISHONEST CLAIMS made about AGW being the cause of low lake levels are by you, and this is probably due to some combination of psychopathy, dishonesty, and stupidity.

    • Hey, Just google this:
      “global warming shrinking great lakes”
      and stop pretending the claims were never made.

      The fact is numerous claims of global warming have been made and now, as I noted above, global warming is being blamed for near record high levels.

  20. It’s wise to keep as much fresh water as possible on land. River regulation is not conducive to this.

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