Great Lakes water levels predicted to be higher in Spring of 2020

Joann Mead - December 25, 2019

The US Corp of Army Engineers, Detroit District has released its prediction for Great Lakes water levels for the next 6 months. With water levels in 2019 being near or at record levels, the outlook for 2020 is even higher levels.  This is going to continue to cause more shoreline erosion and damage to property.  See the Monthly outlook: and the outlook: Please note that these links are updated monthly.

George Dew's picture

Further to this I had some input from our marina owners who attended a presentation from the IJC regarding water levels and related topics. The takeaways that I got (keep in mind this is third-hand information) were:
- water levels right now are unusually high for the season,
- the IJC will not compromise shipping in the seaway, i.e. they will not let more water over the dam at Cornwall,
- reading between the lines, they anticipate another difficult spring.

FWIW Collins Bay Marina will be in better shape than many because the owners are informed and proactive: they have raised the level of the parking lot, docks, and fuel kiosk considerably (as much as 3 feet / 1 meter for the fuel kiosk) in the past year. They are well informed and have more "skin in the game" than I do, so I'm inclined to trust their assessment.

Adena-Marilyn's picture

Yes, you are correctly reading the wide range for forecasting water levels for 2020. You may find some of the longer term water level discussions interesting and relevant. e.g., and and other older data to observe the long term trends.

An even longer period, e.g., 10,000 years, have a look at the Whitefish Channel description:

Isostatic rebound after the last Ice Age, continues to impact the great lakes water levels...

George Dew's picture

This is intriguing, and I wasn't aware of these forecasts so am interested in learning about them - is there anyone with more experience who can provide some insight?

First, I see that the bulletin explains the forecast "is based on the present condition of the lake basin and anticipated future weather" so there's clearly a lot of variability based on weather. That is reflected in the forecast range, which is pretty wide by the time you get down to Lake Ontario.

This is where I'm trying to get a better understanding. What I see in the charts shows that if the water levels are at the maximum of the forecast range, they will be higher than last year. But if they're in the middle of the forecast range it will be a pretty typical season. Am I reading these correctly or is there something I'm missing?