Great Lakes Evaporation: Implications for Decision Making and Water Resource Management

Great Lakes evaporation project

In 2011, GLISA provided funding to a consortium of scientists (see partners list) to study evaporation off of Lake Superior. Lake level change and lake level variability are a major concern for industry, property owners, and natural systems managers throughout the Great Lakes region. Lake level change and variability in the face of climate change remains relatively unstudied. This research initiative sought to understand how lake evaporation off of Lake Superior could be impacted by climate change, and what that potential impact could mean for lake levels.

Project Contacts:

John Lenters, LimnoTech, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Peter Blanken, Department of Geography, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
Christopher Spence, Environment Canada, National Hydrology Research Centre, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Andrew Suyker, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska

Read the Project Report »

Journal Article »

John Lenters described this project at the 2011 GLISA Symposium. View the video below.

Project Accomplishments: 

The research generated out of this study has gained national attention and the research that GLISA supported has led to further work in lake temperature forecasting for Lake Superior. Both of these variables (evaporation and temperature) have immense impact on the health, safety, and economic viability of the lakes for individuals, municipalities and industries. This work brought a new understanding of lake evaporation and since has led to innovative research on lake temperature forecasting for Lake Superior. It is also shaping the way GLISA frames future discussions about lake levels in the Great Lakes region.

Research findings: 

The particularly warm summer of 2010 accelerated the onset of the evaporation season in Lake Superior. Four years of cumulative evaporation data collected at Stannard Rock lighthouse showed that evaporation totals during 2010-11 were “roughly 10 inches greater than the high ice year of 2008/09. While 10 inches of water may not sound like a lot, this is only an example of what one or two unusually warm years can do.”