The latter half of the twentieth century can be characterized as a period of rising water levels on the Great Lakes, with record high levels in 1974 and 1986. Concurrent with these periods of high water level are reported periods of high shoreline damage and property loss. Water levels of the Great Lakes are determined by precipitation, evaporation, river outflow, and groundwater inflow, while wave energy is primarily a function of wind speed, duration, and fetch. A comparison between a recently completed long-term (195687) wave climate hindcast and historical lake levels for the Great Lakes shows a strong correlation between periods of high wave energy and high lake levels. Statistical comparison of these two time series indicates an approximately constant correlation from 24 months to 6 months, around a zero lag/lead. The causational link between increasing lake levels and more intense wind-generated waves appears to be related to significant changes in the climatology of Great Lake's basin cyclones. Support for this conclusion is provided by an apparent interdecadal climate change reflected by a marked shift in track lines of extratropical cyclones passing over the Great Lakes and by a parallel decrease in lake levels and wave energies in the time period from 1976 to 1978. Finally and perhaps most importantly, it is shown that periods of reported high shoreline damage and property loss correlate more directly to periods of high wave energy than to periods of peak water level.
Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society – American Meteorological Society
Published: Apr 20, 1997
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