Lake Michigan Water Levels
Everyone would agree that the winter of 2011-2012 has been very mild...
It is only a week before March and spring is on the horizon. The chances of an average winter snowfall are extremely unlikely. Global warming, La Nina, or just weather cycles are all plausible explanations for this year of "non-winter". For every event there is a benefit and consequence which we need to examine. Between snowplowers lost overtime and revenue, to the County budget which saved a lot of money on road salt, arguements can go either way. Personally, the winter was easy in terms of snow shoveling and ice scrapers so I can't complain.
However, in the big picture we need to take a look at the effect on Lake Michigan water levels. There are at least three items that are quite apparent. First, we are currently only about 40% of our seasonal snowfall with little chance of making up the difference this year. Second, we have not received our average precipitation these past six months. Finally, Lake Michigan has been virtually ice free all winter which allows for increased evaporation. Adding up these observations, we have lost water balance for the last six months and Lake Michigan is down from 2010. To date, we are over 15 inches lower than the past two years. Based upon the large size of the lake (240 miles by 75 miles) that calculates into a huge amount of water. Besides the impact to shipping freight reductions, it also reduces the water levels of the interior lakes and rivers of the surrounding states. Add in the surface area of Lake Huron which is directly linked to Lake Michigan, and we are talking a huge amount of fresh water.
About the time we really get concerned, and wonder if we will ever recover from this situation, we will switch into a rainy, snowy and cold period. Until then, we need to roll with the punches and enjoy the mild conditions.