Seiche! High winds drive flood surge along Lake Superior

Persistent storm force wind gusts running the length of Lake Superior’s open waters shoved the angry lake out of its banks today. The massive storm surge is called a seiche. It tossed boulders ashore and tore up sections of the Lakewalk Trail along Canal Park in Duluth.

Winds gusted to 63 mph overnight in Duluth. Lake Superior also surged out of its banks along Highway 2 near Ashland, Wisconsin.

Lake Superior seiche

The storm force winds ran the length of Lake Superior overnight. That northeast push pushed water onshore. That’s called a seiche.

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

Here’s a seiche in Duluth in 2002.

Top and above: A seiche that hit Canal Park in Duluth, Minnesota, in 2002. Credit: Minnesota Sea Grant.

Near record water levels

Precipitation in the Lake Superior watershed has been well above average the past few years. That’s driven water levels to near record highs. The higher water level and high winds combine to produce more significant shoreline erosion.

Lake Superior water levels via NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

Big lake-effect snow season ahead?

Water temperatures are also running warmer than average across much of the Great Lakes. That extra heat energy will favor heavier lake-effect snowfall as the winter season cranks into high gear.

NOAA