Low Lake Levels Raise Concerns

Image (c) Kathiann M. Kowalski

Image (c) Kathiann M. Kowalski

If you know me, you know I love the beach. I enjoyed playing at Long Island’s Jones Beach in the summer. My husband and I honeymooned by the Pacific Ocean. We’ve taken numerous beach vacations over the years we’ve been married. And even though I live in the Midwest now, I regularly head up to Lake Erie’s beaches to walk, to read, to picnic, or just to look out over the water.

So, you can see why press releases and webinar notices about low water levels in the Great Lakes caught my attention.

Ideally, journalists want to write stories about topics they care about. First, one needs to get enough information to see if there’s a story plus a fresh angle that others aren’t addressing. Then comes the job of pitching that story in a way that gets editors to see why readers should care about it too. So, here’s a bit of what I found out, and then I invite you to read my article in Midwest Energy News.

This past winter, Lake Michigan and Huron reached record-low water levels, says NOAA. Lake Superior is also lower than its long-term average. Lakes Erie and Ontario are near average levels.

Basically, more water is evaporating or otherwise going out of the upper Great Lakes than is coming in from precipitation and other inputs. And climate change is a big factor.

Climate change increases the likelihood for extreme weather events, such as last summer’s drought. Even slight overall warming reduces ice cover, which allows more evaporation to take place. And shallower waters can heat up faster.

To see the data for yourself, check out NOAA’s Great Lakes Interactive Dashboard.

And yes, lower water levels in the upper Great Lakes cause problems. Shore areas face threats from invasive species, and shifting shorelines alter nearshore habitats. Tourism suffers. And shipping costs rise.

Power plants face problems too, as I learned while researching my latest article for Midwest Energy News:

Low Great Lakes levels raise concerns for Midwest power plants

Low water levels in the Great Lakes pose potential operating and efficiency problems for Midwest power plants.

It’s one of several ways power plants are increasingly vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather, an issue recently highlighted in a Department of Energy report. . . .  Read more.

The bottom line: Climate’s consequences matter today—not just in some far-off future. Let’s not be left high and dry.


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