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Publication Abstract

Effects of Past Low Lake Levels and Future Climate-related Low Lake Levels on Lake Michigan, Chicago, and the Illinois Shoreline Changnon, Stanley A., Jr., Steven M. Leffler, and Robin T. Shealy, 1989  Illinois State Water Survey, Champaign, IL,  ISWS RI-110    Full Text Available

This study concerned 1) effects and adjustments resulting from the record-low levels of Lake Michigan during 1964-1965, and 2) the potential effects of future low water levels resulting from expected climate changes. The low lake levels of the 1960s did not cause many major impacts at the time they occurred. The two major imparts discerned, damage to shoreline structures and encroachment of structures onto areas closer to the lake, resulted because of a sequence in which the low water levels were followed by high levels. Climate scenarios based on three global climate model estimates showing a doubling of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, and scenarios based on extreme annual precipitation values from a 133-year period on the Great Lakes basin, were used to determine potential future low lake levels. Possible economic impacts were then determined. If the lake level is reduced from current averages by 0.86 to 1.0 meter during the next 50 years, economic impacts should not be very severe and could probably be handled largely by normal maintenance and replacement costs. Illinois shoreline impacts would cost about $ 100 million. If the lake level is reduced from current averages by 1.25 or 2.52 meters, more sizable economic imparts will occur, costing up to an estimated $291 million and $545 million, respectively. Parts of these costs could be handled by normal replacement costs, particularly if a master plan for changing affected facilities is implemented. The degree of climate change and ensuing lake level will greatly affect the seriousness of the economic outcome, but the environmental and water resource effects are extremely serious under all the climate scenarios.

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