SANDS OF TIME

A PHOTO ESSAY OF THE RISING WATER LEVELS OF LAKE MICHIGAN
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WHAT’S HAPPENING

The increase in water levels is causing drastic beach erosion, much like what we experienced in the mid-1980s and again in the mid-to-late 1990s. During these times homeowners built seawalls and jetties to keep their properties from being destroyed. After the water began to recede, the seawalls and jetties were buried under the beach sand. With the current rise in water levels the buried structures are reappearing. I am documenting this event with fine art.

There’s no telling when the waters will stop rising, but when the water finally recedes, the seawalls once again will be buried and forgotten until, in ten to fifteen years, Lake Michigan begins its cyclical rise.

QUICK REFERENCE INFO

One inch of water equals 790 billion gallons

History of the water levels:

  • 1918: 580.94
  • 1929: 581.30
  • 1943: 580.44
  • 1952: 581.63
  • 1974: 581.76
  • 1986: 582.35 (all time high)
  • 1997: 581.33

The levels remained below average for the longest time recorded between 1999 – 2014

  • 2013: 576.02 (all time low)
  • 2014: 579.20
  • 2015: 579.82
  • 2019: 581.92
  • 2020: 581.56 (January)

Between 2013 and January 2020 the water had risen 5.5 feet (52,140,000,000,000 / 52.1 trillion)

 

Lake Michigan’s max depth is about 1,000 feet

The measurements at the left are feet above sea level and are measured by a series of gages used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Environment and Climate Change Canada to compute lakewide average water levels. This  is done by first computing daily averages at each gage and then computing a lakewide average using all the gages on the lake.

To view the chart below, right click on the chart, and save it to your computer, then open the image on your computer so you can zoom in for more details.

TIMELINE

THE FOLLOWING IS A VISUAL TIMELINE WITH COMPARISON IMAGES

2013

576.02′

January 2013 Lake Michigan was at a record low.
This was the summer just before one of the hardest winters in decades.

SLIDER TO THE RIGHT: 
BEACH IN 2013 (LEFT) SAME BEACH SECTION IN LATE 2014 (RIGHT)

2014

THE WINTER OF 2013/14 = A RECORD REBOUND IN LAKE MICHIGAN’S WATER LEVELS

JAN 2013: 576.02′
NOV 2014: 579.20′
INCREASE OF OVER 3′ OF WATER LEVEL

The winter of 2013/14 brought with it very severe weather, 93% ice coverage, and prolonged days of very cold temperatures. These conditions kept water in Lake Michigan from evaporating, contributing to the drastic rebound of the lake’s levels.

SLIDER TO THE RIGHT:
BEACH IN LATE 2013 (LEFT) SAME BEACH SECTION IN EARLY 2014 (RIGHT)

2015

WATER LEVELS CONTINUED TO RISE, AND BEACHES CONTINUED TO DISAPPEAR

JAN 2013: 576.02′
NOV 2014: 579.20′
JULY 2015: 579.82′
INCREASE OF ALMOST 4′ OF WATER LEVEL

The following winter produced similar weather patterns, and continued the rising water levels due to ice coverage and prolonged cold spells.

SLIDER TO THE RIGHT:
BEACH IN LATE 2015 (LEFT) SAME BEACH SECTION IN EARLY 2016 (RIGHT)
It’s impossible to get into the same positions to get the same image, due to erosion and water.

2016

MORE OF THE SAME

JAN 2013: 576.02′
APRIL 2016: 579.92′
INCREASE OF ALMOST 4′ OF WATER LEVEL

Because the previous winter was an El Niño year, the lake’s ice coverage was less than 30% which should have allowed a considerable amount of water to evaporate, but the opposite seems to have happened. As of this writing Lake Michigan’s water level is higher today than it was in December of 2015.

SLIDER TO THE RIGHT:
BEACH IN AUG 2014 (LEFT) SAME BEACH SECTION IN AUG 2016 (RIGHT)

2017

JULY 2017: 580.76′

LAKE LEVELS INCREASED FROM APRIL BY ALMOST ONE FOOT. HISTORICALLY THE LAKE’S LEVEL PEAKS IN JULY, BUT IN 2013 IT PEAKED IN NOVEMBER. STAY TUNED TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS THIS YEAR.

SLIDER TO THE RIGHT:
PRE-DUNE IN 2014 (LEFT) SAME SECTION IN AUGUST 2017 (RIGHT)

2018

JULY 2018: 580.64′

SLIDER TO THE RIGHT:
JETTIES AUGUST 2014 (LEFT) SAME SECTION IN JULY 2018 (RIGHT)

2019

JULY 2019: 581.92′

SLIDER TO THE RIGHT:
JETTIE SECTION JULY 2014 (LEFT) SAME SECTION IN JULY 2019 (RIGHT)

2020

APRIL 2020: 581.69′

SLIDER TO THE RIGHT:
BEACH SECTION APRIL 2014 (LEFT) SAME SECTION IN APRIL 2020 (RIGHT)

APRIL 2020 WATER LEVELS COMPARED TO 1986

It appears we are on the way to break the maximum high water mark set in 1986. As you can see in the chart below we are still under the all time high for the year, however, as you can see by the numbers below you’ll see that April 2020 set an all time high for April, and all indications are that the increase in water levels will continue.

4.1986: 581.46′

4.2020: 581.69′

 In the graph below there are two red lines; the bottom red line indicates the all time average, and the top line is one I added to show the all time high set in 1986.

To view the chart below, right click on the chart, and save it to your computer, then open the image on your computer so you can zoom in for more details.

Due to increasing water levels, erosion, and other factors, it’s been very difficult to maintain this page with accurate, and timely photo comparisons.  However, if you signup to my emails by using the form below I will send an email when I update this page.

CONTACT

Need something different than what I have on my site?
Want to book a photo session?
Contact me: 616-560-3834

tony@tonyreidsma.photography

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