Attribution of Decadal-Scale Lake-Level Trends in the Michigan-Huron System

Hanrahan, Janel; Roebber, Paul; Kravtsov, Sergey
August 2014
Water (20734441);Aug2014, Vol. 6 Issue 8, p2278
Academic Journal
This study disentangles causes of the Michigan-Huron system lake-level variability. Regional precipitation is identified as the primary driver of lake levels with sub-monthly time lag, implying that the lake-level time series can be used as a proxy for regional precipitation throughout most of the 1865-present instrumental record. Aside from secular variations associated with the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, the lake-level time series is dominated by two near-decadal cycles with periods of 8 and 12 years. A combination of correlation analysis and compositing suggests that the 8-y cycle stems from changes in daily wintertime precipitation amounts associated with individual storms, possibly due to large-scale atmospheric flow anomalies that affect moisture availability. In contrast, the 12-y cycle is caused by changes in the number of instances, or frequency, of summertime convective precipitation due to a preferred upper-air trough pattern situated over the Great Lakes. In recent decades, the lake-level budget exhibited an abnormal—relative to the remainder of the instrumental record—evaporation-driven trend, likely connected to regional signatures of anthropogenic climate change. The latter effect must be accounted for, along with the effects of precipitation, when assessing possible scenarios of future lake-level variability.


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