Lake Erie's water level rose to record highs in 2019 and 2020, damaging property and interfering with recreation before beginning a decline that continued into 2022.
This year, the lake's level isn't projected to break any more monthly records but is expected to remain higher than average for the first six months, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District, which compiles Great Lakes water levels and predictions for the future going back to 1918.
Where was Lake Erie level water level
In 2022, Lake Erie water levels remained above average but were below the monthly mean record highs set in October, November and December of 1986; January of 1987; June, July, August and September of 2019; and February, March, April and May of 2020.
Lake Erie reached its highest level, 575 feet, in June 2019, according to Army Corps of Engineers records. In comparison, the lake's monthly mean levels in 2022 were more than a foot below that record high, reaching a maximum of 574 feet in July.
The Corps of Engineers' water level records show Lake Erie hitting all-time lows during the Great Depression.
Record lows were set for Lake Erie in March through December 1934 and January 1935. Lake Erie hit its lowest recorded water level, 568 feet, in February 1936.
In comparison, the monthly mean levels in 2022 were three to five feet above that record low.
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What is Lake Erie's 2023 forecast?
As January neared its end, Lake Erie was forecast to be at 572 feet - down six inches from January a year ago and down from the 1987 high of 574 feet - according the Corps Detroit District.
This year's forecast was still about 13 inches above Lake Erie's long-term monthly average for January.
In the first half of 2023, Lake Erie's water levels are expected to be lower than in 2022 by anywhere from six to 14 inches, according to predictions from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
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The lake's levels should be 22 inches to 28 inches below the record-high levels.
However, while a lower Lake Erie is predicted for this year, water levels for the first six months are still expected to be six to seven inches above long-term average levels.
Other Great Lakes
The Army Corps of Engineers forecasted the other Great Lakes'water levels for the first six months of 2023.
Lake Superior is expected to be:
Six to 10 inches above 2022 levels from January to April and be within an inch of last year's levels in May and June;
Eight to 11 inches below record-high levels;
Four to six inches above long-term average levels.
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Lake Michigan-Huron (Corps of Engineers lists as one) is expected to be:
Four to seven inches below 2022 levels;
30 inches to 33 inches below record highs;
Four inches above long-term average levels. Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are considered one lake for Army Corps forecasting purposes because the lakes are connected at the Straits of Mackinac and rise and fall together.
Lake Ontario is expected to be:
Three to 13 inches below levels from 2022;
24 inches to 34 inches below record-high levels;
Within two inches of long-term average levels during the first six months of 2023.
Dana Massing can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @ETNmassing.
This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Lake Erie water levels are down. Why is the water level so low?