Lake Superior water levels

Lake Superior water levels are near record levels for this time of the year. That’s a far cry from three years ago when record-low levels were causing some consternation.

But, judging by some non-scientific photography, it’s hard to tell the difference.

Here’s MPR reporter Bob Kelleher’s picture that he took in 2006.


And here’s a picture he took from roughly the same spot in Duluth today.


The crooked old pilings in both allow some point of reference for both.

Superior has always confounded those who try to figure out what the long-term implication is at any particular moment. In 2007, the water temperature was heating up. Then last summer, it plunged.

  • Jon

    The record low’s and high’s of lake superior are only a few feet (if that) apart. But lake superior has a large surface area… which means a 1ft different in is some millions of gallons (possibly billions, my calculator isn’t with me right now…)

    it makes me wonder how and where they measure the depth of the lake…

  • Al

    \\for this time of the year

    Perhaps the key to the fact that the photos look so similar is this part of your statement. Do you know when he took the 2006 photo and the variability in levels over the course of a typical year?

  • Bob Collins

    The 2006 photo was taken just before Christmas.

  • Bismuth

    What about tides?

  • PauL Udstrand

    These photos are clearly not taken from the same spot. Nor are they taken with the same focal length lens. The summer shot is taken with a wide angle lens (23 -28mm maybe), further away, and more parallel to the bridge. The winter shot is more pependicular, and the angle of the two bridges is different in relationship to each other. The winter shot is also taken with a normal focal length, (45-50mm). This makes comparisons very difficult. Nevertheless, the pilings further out are taller than the ones closer to shore, and the short pilings between the tall ones and the bridge are visible in the water. Of course we don’t know what the snow depth is, but the short pilings are not visible in the winter shot. Now the diameter of those pilings is probably about 16 inches and some of them look like they’re sticking out of the water about the same distance of their diameter, maybe a little less. Accounting for snow depth I’d guess the water is 8 -12 inches higher in the winter shot than the summer shot.

  • Bob Collins

    As I indicated earlier. There is NO summer shot vs. winter shot. They were both taken in December.

  • jesse

    I know this is old, but just ran across it, and the headline didn’t make any sense.

    These were not “near record” water levels; if you read the first link, the levels for “Erie and Superior ended November within inches of historical levels for this time of year” … that’s within inches of historical levels, otherwise known as the long-term average for that time of year. not historical in the sense of historically high. It’s been somewhere near a decade since water levels have matched their supposed long-term average.