Great Lakes Water Levels

Water levels on the Great Lakes are dynamic. They change in the shorter timeframe of seconds to days due primarily to wind patterns and waves and in the longer timeframe of months to years due to precipitation in the basin, evaporation, and flow through the rivers that connect the lakes. These resources can help people understand the variability of lake levels and how communities can become more resilient to extreme water levels.

Understand the Basics

Adapting to a Changing Great Lakes Coast Video
PBS Wisconsin

This hour-long presentation by Adam Bechle, Coastal Engineering Outreach Specialist at the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute, explains how fluctuations in rainfall, runoff, and evaporation cause the Great Lakes’ water levels and coastlines to vary.

Water Levels in the Great Lakes

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab

This story map addresses what drives changes in water levels, how water levels are monitored and the human influence on water levels.

Great Lakes Water Levels Q & A

Alliance for the Great Lakes

This blog post from April 2020 uses a question and answer format to explore recent high water levels in the Great Lakes.

On the Level Series

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

This monthly video series provides information and updates about the Great Lakes’ water levels and forecasts from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District, Hydraulics and Hydrology experts.

Long-Term Water Level Observations and Forecasts

Great Lakes Water Level Data and Forecasts

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

This website provides information relating to Great Lakes water levels, including observations, forecasts, basin conditions, and outflows.

Great Lakes Water Levels Monitoring

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab

This website provides an overview of how Great Lakes water levels are measured, as well as current observations and forecasts.

Great Lakes Water Level Dashboard

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab

This resource provides interactive visualization of water levels on each of the Great Lakes.

Short-Term Water Level Observations and Forecasts

Great Lakes Short-Term Water Level Observations

NOAA Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS)

This website provides real-time and historic observations of short-term water levels and meteorological data at stations around the Great Lakes.

Great Lakes Coastal Forecasting System

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab

This resource provides maritime users with short-term predictions of water levels, water currents, and water temperatures.

Lake Superior Operational Forecast System

NOAA National Ocean Service

This resource provides interactive visualization of water levels on each of the Great Lakes.

Lake Michigan and Huron Operational Forecast System

NOAA National Ocean Service

This NOAA project provides short-term predictions of water levels, currents and water temperatures in Lake Superior.

Great Lakes Portal

NOAA National Weather Service

This resource hub features an interactive map of wave heights, wind speed and wind gusts and provides quick access to a range of Great Lakes data.

Assess Impacts

Lake Level Viewer

NOAA Office for Coastal Management

This interactive map visualizes the extent of rising and falling water levels along the shores of the Great Lakes from six feet above average lake levels to six feet below in one foot increments. It includes the ability to explore the impact of rising water levels on vulnerable populations and businesses.

Wisconsin Shoreline Inventory and Oblique Photo Viewer Map

Association of State Floodplain Managers

Explore how the Great Lakes coasts of Wisconsin have changed since 1976 by viewing beach and bluff conditions, oblique photos and coastal erosion rates.

Adapt to Changing Water Levels

Adapting to a Changing Coast – Options and Resources for Lake Michigan Property Owners

Wisconsin Sea Grant

This publication identifies 16 options across 5 themes to help coastal property owners adapt to changing water levels and storms on Lake Michigan.

Adapting to a Changing Coast: Options and Resources for Local Officials in Southeastern Wisconsin Coastal Communities

Wisconsin Sea Grant

This publication identifies 28 options across 4 themes to help local government officials address changing water levels and storms on Lake Michigan.

Nature-Based Shoreline Options for the Great Lakes Coasts

Wisconsin Sea Grant

This guidebook describes different types of nature-based shoreline techniques suitable for the Great Lakes and shares case studies of their implementation.

Living on the Coast

Wisconsin Sea Grant and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Detroit District

A guidebook describing natural coastal processes and strategies to manage risk to coastal properties.

Coastal Processes Manual: How to Estimate the Conditions of Risk to Coastal Property from Extreme Lake Levels, Storms, and Erosion in the Great Lakes Basin

Wisconsin Sea Grant

The second edition of this manual, published in 1998, provides step-by-step instructions on how to estimate risk to Great Lakes coastal property from extreme lake levels, storms and erosion. A third edition is in development.

Networks Building Resilience to Coastal Hazards

Wisconsin Coastal Hazards Work Group

Wisconsin Coastal Management Program

This group with members from state, regional and local government agencies, academic institutions and non-government organizations meets several times a year to discuss coastal natural hazards issues, share information, and collaborate on research and outreach projects.

Coastal Resilience Working Group

Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts

This group uses innovative methods and technologies to describe and predict the effects that the changing climate will have on the communities and property owners of Wisconsin’s coastlines.

Coastal Hazards of Superior Community of Practice (CHAOS)

NOAA Partners in Minnesota and Wisconsin

This group provides a platform for engaging local community leaders, managers, researchers, and communicators with a shared concern about coastal hazards in the western Lake Superior region.

Collaborative Action for Lake Michigan Coastal Resilience (CALM)

Wisconsin Coastal Management Program and partners

This network works to sustain, strengthen, and connect existing regional coastal resilience networks to expand collaboration across Wisconsin’s entire Lake Michigan coastline.

Northeast Wisconsin Coastal Resilience Study

Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission, Wisconsin Sea Grant and the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program

This resource hub shares information about resilience to coastal hazards in northeast Wisconsin, focusing on coastal communities in Sheboygan, Manitowoc, and Kewaunee counties.