Tale of Two Lakes

Words on Weather & Climate

October 28, 2010 // 0 Comments

A Tale of Two Lakes by CRAIG JAMES This is a tale of two lakes, not two cities. The first lake is Devil’s Lake in North Dakota. Since 1940, this lake has risen nearly 50 feet! It has risen almost 29 feet just since 1993, but it is still not quite as high as it has been in the past, as seen on this graph from the North Dakota State Water Commission, showing water levels over the past 4,000 years. The lake experiences what appear to be normal fluctuations from dry to overflowing, which have little to do with global warming. Since the lake has no natural outlet, excess snow melt and rainfall remain in the lake until it rises another seven feet, where it can then discharge into the nearest river. The last time it spilled into the river was a little less than 2,000 years ago. Since the 1940s of course, communities have built up along the lakeshore, not taking into consideration the past history of the lake. These communities are now being flooded and over 10% of the population has moved out of the area. Over 400 homes have been moved or destroyed and not without considerable cost. By the end of 2010, the federal government will have spent more than $1 billion to ease the threat, buying flooded property, building dikes and making other improvements. That figure does not include a $27 million floodwater-diversion channel built by the state on the west end of the lake. It also costs $330,000 a month for the electricity for pumps to take one inch off the lake. Those are all our tax dollars spent so people could live on a lake that history has shown has always fluctuated this much. The other lake is Lake Mead in Nevada. This lake is experiencing the opposite problem: water levels are falling. The lake has dropped an amazing 126 feet since 1985, at one point losing 60 feet in just three years! The graph shows the fluctuations in the water level since the lake was filled behind Hoover Dam in 1937. The lake receives 96% of its water from snowmelt that drains into the Colorado River basin. During the past decade of drought conditions, the amount of […]