Hydrology of the Great Lakes, Long-Term Trends

Summary: Accurate hydrologic data are required for simulation, forecasting, and water resource studies on the Great Lakes and their basins. These data sets contain historical data on hydrologic parameters from all the Great Lakes, both annually and by decade. The data are useful for comparing and contrasting trends among lakes over the long term.

Decadal Temperature, Precipitation/Runoff, and Water Levels/Flows

View the Data: hydrology decadal.xlsx

This data set includes three spreadsheets (tabs) of data, with data every 10 years (decadal), from 1910-2000. The first tab contains overlake air temperature, overland air temperature and water temperature. The second tab contains evaporation, precipitation and runoff. The third tab contains water levels for each lake, river flows for the rivers that connect the Great Lakes and diversions to canals.

Annual Temperature, Precipitation/Runoff, and Water Levels/Flow

View the Data :

These data sets contain long-term data for water surface temperatures, overlake air temperatures, overland air temperatures, monthly evaporation, overlake precipitation, overland precipitation, monthly runoff, water levels, connecting channel flows and diversions to canals. Each data set contains one spreadsheet (tab) of data.

Sample Inquiry Questions

Note: For a question to be testable, the geographic location, time, and variables must be specific.

General Questions:

  • Are over-lake air temperatures closely related to overland air temperatures?
  • Do seasonal temperatures occur from lake to lake?
  • Is there a correlation between surface water temperature and the amount of runoff?
  • Does air temperature affect the rate of evaporation?
  • Does runoff affect the rate of connecting river flows?
  • Is there a correlation between over-lake temperatures and water surface temperatures?
  • Is there a relationship between monthly runoff to a respective lake from a land surface and water levels?
  • Do average precipitation rates exceed evaporation rates in the Great Lakes (or a specific lake) in the decades between 1950 and 2000?
  • Do the river flows (St. Mary’s to Huron, St. Clair River to St. Clair Lake, Detroit to Erie, or Niagara to Ontario) affect the water levels of the Great Lake?

Specific Questions:

  • Is there more average evaporation in Lake Erie in the summertime than in the wintertime in the year 2000?
  • Are water surface temperatures affected by over lake temperatures in Lake Superior in the decade of 1990?
  • Do average water levels change between decades in Lake Michigan between 1950-2000?