Lake Michigan Water Temperature Remains Below Long Term Average

The long, cold winter, record ice cover and lack of a prolonged warm period this spring and summer has all contributed to Lake Michigan water temperatures remaining colder than normal into mid-July.  The below chart shows how Lake Michigan water temperatures in 2014 compare to the long term 20 year average beginning in 1992:

Lake Michigan 2014 vs long term

Through early July 2014, the Lake Michigan average temperature was running about 5 degrees F colder than the long term average. The below chart illustrates the current year as compared to the previous 5 years:5 year trend - Lake Michigan water temp

 5 year water temps

The below graphic is an estimate of the Lake Michigan surface water temperature as measured by the MODIS Satellite equipment around noon on Wednesday, July 9th (click for larger view):

Water temperatures for most of central Lake Michigan to the near shore and beach waters from Sheboygan to Kenosha were in the 50s.  Far southern Lake Michigan had warmed into the lower to middle 60s, while a portion of the northern mid-lake remained around 40!

Here are images from early July 2013 and 2012 which show much more widespread warmer lake surface temperatures. 

Click for larger view
july_2013 July_2012

Below the surface, Lake Michigan water temperatures remain quite chilly as well.  The below chart shows how the water temperatures falls rapidly through the 50s to near 40 degrees F around 60 feet below the lake surface at both buoy locations.  The southern Lake Michigan buoy (45007) is located about 50 miles southeast of Milwaukee at mid-lake.  The northern Lake Michigan buoy (45002) is located about 20 miles east of Washington Island, which is at the tip of the Door County peninsula.

buoy temperature profiles

As the long range forecast is calling for below normal temperatures to settle over the western Great Lakes next week, no significant warming of Lake Michigan is expected through mid-July.  Wind direction and the strength of the winds will also affect the temperature of the lake due to potential upwelling.

Water levels:

Lake Michigan continues to see lake levels recover, now approaching the average for the period of record running from 1918 through the present time.  The water level is nearly 3 feet higher than where it was back in January of 2013.  If you think that's impressive, look at Lake Superior!  This data is from GLERL.


National Weather Service - Milwaukee/Sullivan


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