The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reports that Great Lakes water levels are up from this time a year ago. Lakes Michigan and Huron are up 12 inches, Lake Superior 2 inches and Lake Erie 5 inches while Lake Ontario is unchanged. Even Lake St. Clair is up 9 inches. Erie and Ontario (and St. Clair) are between 2 and 6 inches above long-term monthly averages for June. Superior, Michigan and Huron are only 6 to 7 inches below long-term averages for June. While this change in the water levels is pronounced, it is not unusual. The Great Lakes have a history of considerable fluctuation in water levels.

During the last 10 years, water levels in the Great Lakes have been below long-term averages. For 30 years prior to that the levels were above average. In fact, historical water level data indicates there is no normal water level for the Great Lakes. A normal water level and an average water level are not the same thing.

The press has been quick to report on lower-than-average Great Lakes levels over the last decade. Many of the articles quote environmental and other groups predicting the dire consequences of global warming's influence. "Warming saps Great Lakes: Water levels could take big drop as Earth gets hotter" is the headline of an article that appeared April 7, 2007, in The Detroit News. In the article, Scudder Mackey of Canada's University of Windsor predicts that in a worst case scenario, Lake St. Clair's shoreline could recede by as much as 3.5 miles. In the same article George Kling, a University of Michigan ecologist, suggests that within 30 years summers in Michigan are likely to feel more like those in Kentucky today and that by the end of the century, summer weather will resemble Arkansas and northern Mississippi.

Climate change alarmists predicting doomsday scenarios for the Great Lakes are probably not too pleased with the draft report "Impacts on Upper Great Lakes Water Levels: St. Clair River" released May 1, 2009, by the International Joint Commission. The report found that the difference in water levels between Lake Michigan-Huron and Lake Erie of 9 inches between 1962 and 2006 was caused by three factors:

  • A change in the conveyance of the St. Clair River, mostly likely caused by a large ice jam that occurred in the mid-1980s;
  • Glacial isostatic adjustment (the rebounding of the earth's crust after the melting of the glaciers about 10,000 years ago);
  • Changes in climate patterns.

If lower-than-average water levels in the Great Lakes is caused by global warming, then increasing water levels must be caused by global cooling, right? Of course the global cooling connection to Great Lakes water levels is just as spurious as the global warming claims. Maybe it is time to take a pause and understand that as much as we might like to, man does not control nature. At the very least we should not undertake expensive and job-killing policy initiatives such as cap-and-trade of CO2 because of predictions regarding the Great Lakes, which are proving to be wrong.

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Russ Harding is director of the Property Rights Network at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Mich. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the Center are properly cited.

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