Lake Erie is expected to reach record high water levels in the first half of 2020, with expected heavy spring and summer rains part of a long-term trend.
While the United States has seen a 4 percent increase in precipitation between 1901 and 2015, the Ottawa County region of Lake Erie is predicted to see a 10 percent rise due to climate change.
The Great Lakes contain about one-fifth of the world’s surface fresh water, and that makes them a critical water resource. Over 30 million people live within the Great Lakes basin, and many depend on those lakes for drinking water and recreation.
In May 2019, high water level records were set on Lake Erie, causing widespread flooding in low, and not so low, areas around Port Clinton.
As recently as 2013, water levels on most of the Great Lakes were very low. At that time, some experts said that climate change and water diversions would cause water levels to continue to decline.
Those prognosticators were wrong.
Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron provide about 92 percent of the water to Lake Erie through the Detroit River, and water levels change very quickly because Lake Erie is small and shallow. There is no human regulation of water levels in Lake Erie, unlike Lakes Superior and Ontario, so Lake Erie gets the overflow.
In addition, there have been more frequent, stronger storms on Lake Erie.
The impact is being felt. Water covered the Jet Express boat launch and marina docks were underwater in Catawba. U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Brian McCrum said the high water level also means there’s a higher risk of hidden hazards for boaters.