STATE OF THE RESEARCH: FEATURED PUBLICATIONS
Sustained Assessment of the Great Lakes
Resources in this Assessment:
Future lake level modeling
Physically plausible methods for projecting changes in Great Lakes water levels under climate change scenarios – Lofgren and Rouhana, 2016
Summary: Many previous modeling studies that used climate models to project future Great Lakes water levels projected long-term declines in future water levels on the Great Lakes. This study highlighted an important physical discrepancy in how a key component of the water budget was calculated in many past models, which heavily influenced their results and overestimated the decline. Modelers mainly used a method that relies on routing the climate model outputs through the Large Basin Runoff Model (LBRM) to determine water budgets for the lakes. LBRM’s exclusive reliance on air temperature as a predictor of potential evapotranspiration, and its very high sensitivity to air temperature, cause it to overestimate future evapotranspiration and cause the entire modeling system to underestimate future lake levels. This high sensitivity to temperature is inconsistent with the fundamental principle of conservation of energy at the land surface. Methods that rely on better representation of the surface energy budget showed results that are more reflective of what is happening in the global climate models that drive the projections.
Citation: Lofgren, B. M., J. Rouhana, 2016: Physically plausible methods for projecting changes in Great Lakes water levels under climate change scenarios. Journal of Hydrometeorology, 17 (8), 2209–2223. doi: 10.1175/JHM-D-15-0220.1
Dynamical downscaling–based projections of Great Lakes water levels – Notaro et al., 2015
Summary: This study examines projections of Great Lakes regional climate, net basin supply (NBS), and water levels for the mid- and late twenty-first century. Two dynamically downscaled global climate models (GCMs) that are interactively coupled to a one-dimensional lake model, and then input into a hydrological routing model, were used to simulate NBS. Both models led to projected increases in annual air temperature, precipitation, and all NBS components (overlake precipitation, basinwide runoff, and lake evaporation), one model (RCM-MIROC5) projected overall declines in water levels, while the other (RCM-CNRM) projected moderate increases. The water level declines in RCM-MIROC5 are defined by large increases in annual temperatures that lead to dramatic increases in lake evaporation that cannot offset the more moderate increases in precipitation and runoff. The water level increases in RCM-CNRM are defined by moderate increases in annual temperatures and evaporation that are ultimately dominated by substantial increases in annual precipitation and runoff. There are limitations related to the model’s rudimentary treatment of the Great Lakes that results in “warm summer biases in lake temperatures, excessive ice cover, and an abnormally early peak in lake evaporation.
Citation: Notaro, M., V. Bennington, B. Lofgren, 2015: Dynamical downscaling–based projections of Great Lakes water levels. Journal of Climate, 28 (24), 9712-9745, doi: 10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00847.1
Assessment of the Laurentian Great Lakes’ hydrological conditions in a changing climate – Mailhot et al., 2019
Summary: In this study, a set of 28 simulations from five NA-CORDEX regional climate models are used to assess the Great Lakes’ water supply from 1953 to 2100 following emissions scenarios RCP4.5 and 8.5. Models are evaluated by comparing annual cycles with observations, analyzing trends in mean values, and analyzing changes in extreme conditions from a historical reference period to two future reference periods. Ensemble results show an overall increase in the Great Lakes net basin supply between 1953-2100, but the trends are not equally distributed throughout the year as seasonal changes differ greatly. “As a result, Great Lakes net basin supply is expected to increase in winter and spring and decrease in summer.”
Citation: Mailhot, E., B. Music, D.F. Nadeau, A. Frigon, R. Turcotte, 2019: Assessment of the Laurentian Great Lakes’ hydrological conditions in a changing climate. Climatic Change, 157, 243–259. doi:10.1007/s10584-019-02530-6
Improving the Simulation of Large Lakes in Regional Climate Modeling: Two-Way Lake–Atmosphere Coupling with a 3D Hydrodynamic Model of the Great Lakes – Xue et al., 2017
Summary: This article describes improved methodologies developed for linking dynamical models of the lakes and atmosphere. Past modeling studies mainly relied on one-dimensional lake models applied to regional climate models to represent the interactions between the atmosphere and the lakes, but such models are “fundamentally incapable of realistically resolving a number of physical processes in the Great Lakes.” This study developed a two-way coupled 3D lake-ice–climate modeling system [Great Lakes–Atmosphere Regional Model (GLARM)] to ”improve the simulation of large lakes in regional climate models and accurately resolve the hydroclimatic interactions.” When compared to observational data, this 3D modeling system was able to reproduce trends and variability in Great Lakes regional climate and capture the “physical characteristics of the Great Lakes by fully resolving the lake hydrodynamics.”
Citation: Xue, P., J. S. Pal, X. Ye, J. D. Lenters, C. Huang, P. Y. Chu, 2017: Improving the Simulation of Large Lakes in Regional Climate Modeling: Two-Way Lake–Atmosphere Coupling with a 3D Hydrodynamic Model of the Great Lakes. Journal of Climate, 30 (5), 1605-1627, doi: 10.1175/JCLI-D-16-0225.1
The response of Great Lakes water levels to future climate scenarios with an emphasis on Lake Michigan-Huron – Angel and Kunkel, 2009
Summary: To estimate possible future levels of the Great Lakes due to climate change, this study applied the output of 565 model runs from 23 Global Climate Models to a lake-level model, across three different emission scenarios. Results showed that the largest lake level changes came from the highest emission scenario for projections in 2080-2094, however, there was a considerable range in lake levels across the different model runs. This wide range is mainly due to the differences in emission scenarios and the uncertainty in the model simulations, which make it difficult to envision the level of impacts that change in future lake levels would cause.
Citation: Angel, J. R., K. E. Kunkel, 2010: The response of Great Lakes water levels to future climate scenarios with an emphasis on Lake Michigan-Huron. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 36 (2), 51-58, doi: 10.1016/j.jglr.2009.09.006
Analysis of historical observations
Recent water level changes across Earth’s largest lake system and implications for future variability – Gronewold and Rood, 2019
Summary: This paper argues that recent lake level fluctuations (in the mid- to late-2010s), including the Lake Ontario flood of 2017 and the preceding extended period of low water levels, were induced by weather extremes and climate variability, and cannot be reasonably attributed to water management. It also explains the flaws in relying on GCM simulated lake levels projections and and why such models are “perhaps most useful for offering guidance to frame analyses of future Great Lakes water level variability scenarios, but not for making explicit predictions.” “Understanding and communicating the drivers behind water level variability, particularly in light of recent extremes, is a fundamental step towards improving regional water resources management and policy.”
Citation: Gronewold, A. D., R.B. Rood, 2019: Recent water level changes across Earth’s largest lake system and implications for future variability. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 45 (1), 1-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jglr.2018.10.012
Development and application of a North American Great Lakes hydrometeorological database — Part I: Precipitation, evaporation, runoff, and air temperature – Hunter et al., 2015
Summary: This paper describes the hydrometeorological data available for public use from the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL). It explains the sources of several lake variables and how the observations are recorded, processed, and reported in the database. This data is used frequently in the Lake Climatologies available as part of this Sustained Assessment.
Citation: Hunter, T.S., A. H. Clites, K. B. Campbell, A. D. Gronewold, 2015: Development and application of a North American Great Lakes hydrometeorological database — Part I: Precipitation, evaporation, runoff, and air temperature. Journal of Great Lakes Research. 41(1), 65-77, doi: 10.1016/j.jglr.2014.12.006
Hydrological drivers of record-setting water level rise on Earth’s largest lake system – Gronewold et al, 2016
Summary: This study offers a statistical examination of the water level rise on the Great Lakes between 2013-2014. In this period, the upper Great Lakes (Superior and Michigan-Huron) rose at the highest 2-year rate on record, following a 15-year long period of below-average water levels. Study results indicated that the water level rise on the upper lakes was driven mainly by increased springtime runoff and over-lake precipitation in 2013, as well as decreased over-lake evaporation in 2014. The Michigan-Huron rise was also influenced by high rates of inflow from Lake Superior via the St. Mary’s River. These results provide insight on how water levels on large freshwater lakes systems respond to both short and long-term climate perturbations, and could provide guidance to water resource management in the future.
Citation: Gronewold, A. D., J. Bruxer, D. Durnford, J. P. Smith, A. H. Clites, F. Seglenieks, S. S. Qian, T. S. Hunter, and V. Fortin, 2016: Hydrological drivers of record-setting water level rise on Earth’s largest lake system, Water Resources Research, 52 (5), 4026-4042, doi: 10.1002/2015WR018209
Hydroclimatic Factors of the Recent Record Drop in Laurentian Great Lakes Water Levels – Assel et al., 2004
Summary: This article examines the record drop in Great Lakes water levels between 1997-2000. This episode of extreme low-water supply resulted in the largest 1-yr drop in Lakes Michigan–Huron and Lake Erie water levels on record, and (at the time) the lowest Lake Superior water levels since 1925. The primary hydroclimatological driver of this drop was determined to be high air temperature which caused unusually high evaporation rates and a decrease in basin runoff. This differed from other record-low water episodes in the past, which were mainly driven by extremely low precipitation.
Citation: Assel, R.A., F. H. Quinn; C. E. Sellinger, 2004: Hydroclimatic Factors of the Recent Record Drop in Laurentian Great Lakes Water Levels. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 85 (8), 1143-1153, doi: 10.1175/BAMS-85-8-1143
Coasts, water levels, and climate change: A Great Lakes perspective – Gronewold et al., 2013
Summary: This article aims to fill a gap in global freshwater and marine coastal research, by examining how lessons from the Great Lakes, including water levels, coastlines, and lake dynamics, relate to other large coastal systems. It also explores related water resource management strategies and climate scenario-derived projections of future conditions. We include this publication because of the good overview it provides on the dynamics of the Great Lakes that drive water levels, and why climate considerations are important in future management planning.
Citation: Gronewold A. D., V. Fortin, B. Lofgren, A. Clites, C. A. Stow, F. Quinn, 2013: Coasts, water levels, and climate change: A Great Lakes perspective. Climatic Change, 120, 697-711. doi: 10.1007/s10584-013-0840-2
You can find an archive of all previously featured publications from this list, as well as a few other relevant articles, in the dropdown menu below.
Archive of Featured Research:
- Hartmann, H.C. , 1990: Climate change impacts on Laurentian Great Lakes levels. Climatic Change 17, 49-67, doi: 10.1007/BF00149000
- Lofgren, B.M., F.H. Quinn, A.H. Clites, R.A. Assel, A.J. Eberhardt, C.L. Luukkonen, 2002: Evaluation of potential impacts on Great Lakes water resources based on climate scenarios of two GCMs. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 28 (4), 537-554, doi: 10.1016/S0380-1330(02)70604-7
- Hayhoe, K., J. VanDorn, T.E. Croley II, N. Schlegal, D. Wuebbles, 2010: Regional climate change projections for Chicago and the Great Lakes. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 3, 7-21, doi: 10.1016/j.jglr.2010.03.012
- MacKay, M., F. Seglenieks, 2013: On the simulation of Laurentian Great Lakes water levels under projections of global climate change. Climatic Change, 117, 55-67, doi: 10.1007/s10584-012-0560-z
- Lofgren, B. M., A. D. Gronewold, A. Acciaioli, J. Cherry, A. Steiner, D. Watkins, 2013: Methodological Approaches to Projecting the Hydrologic Impacts of Climate Change. Earth Interactions, 17 (22), 1–19, doi: 10.1175/2013EI000532.1.
- ,2007: Modeling the impacts of water level changes on a Great Lakes community. Journal of American Water Resources Association, 40 (3), 647-662, doi: 10.1111/j.1752-1688.2004.tb04450.x
Observations and analysis of historic trends
- Assel, R. A., F. H. Quinn, C. E. Sellinger, 2004: Hydroclimatic Factors of the Recent Record Drop in Laurentian Great Lakes Water Levels. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 85 (8), 1143–1152, doi: 10.1175/BAMS-85-8-1143.
- Lenters, J.D., 2001: Long-term Trends in the Seasonal Cycle of Great Lakes Water Levels. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 27 (3), 342-353, doi: 10.1016/S0380-1330(01)70650-8
- Lenters, J. D., J. B. Anderton, P. Blanken, C. Spence, A. E. Suyker, 2013: Assessing the Impacts of Climate Variability and Change on Great Lakes Evaporation. In: 2011 Project Reports. D. Brown, D. Bidwell, and L. Briley, eds. Available from the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments (GLISA) Center: glisa.umich.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/GLISA_Lake_Evaporation_Lenters_Final.pdf
- Quinn, F. H., 2002: Secular Changes in Great Lakes Water Level Seasonal Cycles. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 28 (3), 451-465, doi: 10.1016/S0380-1330(02)70597-2
- Rodionov, S. N., 1994: Association between Winter Precipitation and Water Level Fluctuations in the Great Lakes and Atmospheric Circulation Patterns. Journal of Climate, 7 (11), 1693–1706, 10.1175/1520-0442(1994)007<1693:ABWPAW>2.0.CO;2.
- Great Lakes Regional Assessment Group, 2000: Preparing for a Changing Climate: The Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change, Great Lakes Overview. A Report of the Great Lakes Regional Assessment Group for the U.S. Global Change Research Program, Sousounis, P., and J. Bisanz (Eds.): http://geo.msu.edu/extra/glra/PDF_files/GLRA_report.pdf
- Francis, J.A., Vavrus, S.J., 2012: Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes. Geophysical Research Letters, 39 (6), L06801, doi: 10.1029/2012GL051000
- Hassanzadeh, P., Kuang, Z., 2015: Blocking variability: Arctic amplification versus Arctic Oscillation. Geophysical Research Letters, 42 (20), 8586–8595, doi: 10.1002/2015GL065923