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Lake Michigan sets record for lowest monthly water level

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Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan

MILWAUKEE (WITI) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reports a preliminary new record low water level for Lake Michigan for the second month in a row.

The new record low of 175.57 meters or 576.02 feet is not only the lowest January monthly average water level ever recorded, but also the lowest monthly average ever recorded for any month over the official period of record for Great Lakes water levels, which extends back to 1918. 

The Corps’ latest forecasts indicate a strong likelihood for continued record lows on Lake Michigan over the next several months. Water levels on the remaining Great Lakes are expected to remain below their respective long-term average water levels, but above record lows. 

The current record low water levels on Lake Michigan are the result of lower than average snowfall during the winter of 2011-2012, coupled with the very hot and dry summer. Together these conditions led to only a 4 inch seasonal rise of Lake Michigan in 2012, compared to an average rise of 12 inches. Also, evaporation was significantly above average during the summer and fall months and contributed to a very rapid seasonal decline. 

Above average precipitation and snow cover coupled with below average evaporation this winter are needed to raise Lake Michigan water levels above record lows. However, it would take similar conditions over many seasons for levels to rise to near average levels.

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