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Old 26-01-2018, 10:12   #1
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Great Lakes Surface Water Temperatures

Background:
I have always wanted to sail and cruise on the Great Lakes, and I hope to do so in the future (I am available in 2018 to do so). Part of my interest is seeing the remote areas, such as Lake Superior's North Shore, but also the historic cities and areas I have not seen yet.

I am aware the water temperatures can be relatively cool to cold depending upon the time of the year, even during the summer months. I spent years sailing in San Francisco and the Northern California coastal waters (average water temp in summer months is about 54 degrees Fahrenheit). In July 2017 I sailed around parts of Newfoundland, even close to large icebergs, where the water temperature was as cold as 42 degrees Fahrenheit, even on a July day.

Today I came across this graph which plots the Surface Temperatures of the different Great Lakes by month. I found it interesting and hope it is to other CF members too.

If you have any anecdotes about "Cold Water Sailing in the Great Lakes" or 'how cold was it when you were sailing" when sailing on the Great Lakes, please feel free to add them to this thread.
__________

See the graph below.

Here is the graph's source:
https://coastwatch.glerl.noaa.gov/st...p?lk=g&yr=2017
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Old 26-01-2018, 10:32   #2
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Re: Great Lakes Surface Water Temperatures

Interesting. Lake Erie being the shallowest has to be the warmest.

I would expect all lakes to have a gradual trend upwards then dipping in the fall - I wonder why it oscillates between July and October.

But 24 degrees on Lake Ontario in October? Nah!
There is no mention where they take the measurements - shore or off-shore.
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Old 26-01-2018, 10:46   #3
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Re: Great Lakes Surface Water Temperatures

Note! The chart I posted earlier is in degrees Celsius.

Here is a conversion chart for Americans who still use Fahrenheit degrees.
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Old 26-01-2018, 11:18   #4
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Re: Great Lakes Surface Water Temperatures

The coldest I've ever been on a boat was sailing from Duluth to the Apostle islands on a manorial day weekend, ages ago. I had every piece of clothing on. It was lovely though.
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Old 27-01-2018, 05:30   #5
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Re: Great Lakes Surface Water Temperatures

Great graph..there are a string of bouys about 1 mile off the East side of Lake Michigan that we use for accurate actual conditions on the water.(Great Lakes Buoys).

The temps can be quite cold offshore in the spring..grab everything you've got, and wear it. The water temps usually stay pretty warm even into the start of October, and honestly the best sailing can be had in Sept and Oct. due to the high water temps and decent wind, but the air can get quite cold overnight, we call it good sleeping weather.

The fog in the spring can get really thick at times in the right conditions, it is a cold clammy, just stick to your skin wet and cold feeling, even in mid-June. You usually are not going to be jumping in the water until some time in July.
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Old 27-01-2018, 05:48   #6
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Re: Great Lakes Surface Water Temperatures

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Originally Posted by SVTatia View Post
I would expect all lakes to have a gradual trend upwards then dipping in the fall - I wonder why it oscillates between July and October.

The temperature oscillates because of upwelling. That is, a strong breeze blows the warm surface water toward the lee shore and that warm water is replaced by cold water coming up from below. This is often referred to as "turning over". One day the water is 24 C, the next it's 12 C.

It's often very localized. The surface temp can be 12 C in one area, and still 24 C only 40 km away. Typically the warm waters return in a few days, either by actual solar warming or a switch in wind direction blowing warm water back whence it came.

Night crossings can be cool (even cold) even in July. Heck, even in the height of summer it's not unusual to wear fleece on the lake while the swimming beaches are packed.

BTW "surface temperature" ie that nice warm water typically extends only a meter down. There is typically a drop of 5 C between the surface and two meters down, and it gets colder as one goes deeper. Even snorkeling nobody wears just a swimsuit for more than five minutes.

In Lake Ontario, as one approaches the Thousand Islands/ St. Lawrence River the water cools significantly and becomes quite clear. This is due to cool bottom water being forced from the depths up into the shallows of the St. Lawrence.

The many bays are typically much warmer than the lakes, particularly as one goes inland. I've measured 31 C in the back end of one bay off Lake Ontario.

On the south shore of Lake Ontario the game is to get in the water by last day of May. That's in then quickly out...and that's the bay, not the lake. Swimming in the bays is typically quite comfortable June-September, with a significant temperature drop 2nd weekend of September. During warm seasons one might swim (bays) the first week of October (15 C) but after that nobody goes in voluntarily.

The western lakes (ie not Erie or Ontario) tend to be (to my skin) much colder with far shorter swimming (and sailing) seasons.

To get a feel for how weather effected toughened naval sailors read The Lords of the Lake: The Naval War on Lake Ontario 1812-1814.
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Old 27-01-2018, 06:39   #7
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Re: Great Lakes Surface Water Temperatures

We have historic cities on the Great Lakes?
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Old 27-01-2018, 06:56   #8
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Re: Great Lakes Surface Water Temperatures

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steady Hand View Post
Note! The chart I posted earlier is in degrees Celsius.

Here is a conversion chart for Americans who still use Fahrenheit degrees.
Hey Americans, you don't need no stinking chart! Here's a trick we American pilots use to report the temperature at our destination to our American passengers: take the temp in C., double it, subtract 10% from the sum and then add 32 and, viola, you have a proper relatable temperature.

Example: 15deg C. x 2 = 30, 30 - 10% = 27, 27 + 32 = 59 good old fashioned degrees F.
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Old 27-01-2018, 07:09   #9
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Re: Great Lakes Surface Water Temperatures

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We have historic cities on the Great Lakes?

Sackett's Harbor, NY and Kingston, Ontario were the forefront of the war of 1812. Back then that WAS the end of civilization in North America, that was the frontier. Both were THE respective shipbuilding locations on the Great Lakes, aside from a few smaller locations. Perry on Lake Erie reported to Sackett's Harbor.

York (Toronto) has an incredible history going back to trade with the Indians. According to the documentary Curse of the Axe it is where the oldest man made European iron implement has been found (though last week I had to inform them that's wrong- a Viking spearpoint was found on the south shore, at Sodus Bay.)

Niagara/ Buffalo also have extensive histories, as does, of course, the Soo area.
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Old 27-01-2018, 08:02   #10
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Re: Great Lakes Surface Water Temperatures

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Sackett's Harbor, NY and Kingston, Ontario were the forefront of the war of 1812. Back then that WAS the end of civilization in North America, that was the frontier. Both were THE respective shipbuilding locations on the Great Lakes, aside from a few smaller locations. Perry on Lake Erie reported to Sackett's Harbor.

York (Toronto) has an incredible history going back to trade with the Indians. According to the documentary Curse of the Axe it is where the oldest man made European iron implement has been found (though last week I had to inform them that's wrong- a Viking spearpoint was found on the south shore, at Sodus Bay.)

Niagara/ Buffalo also have extensive histories, as does, of course, the Soo area.
So, what is there to see in these historic cities now?

Historic cities via water to me are Rhodes, Istanbul, Valletta, Siracusa, Korcula, Gibraltar, Horta, etc. You can still walk streets that are 1000+ years old. I mean - the same stones in the streets were there a 1000 years ago. Well, not Gibraltar or Horta, but similar feel.

I love the Great Lakes and have boated them my whole life. Good for nice forested views with some small hills and a few large sand dunes. Lots of tourist towns with fudge and corn dogs but pretty lacking on real significant history.
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Old 27-01-2018, 08:16   #11
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Re: Great Lakes Surface Water Temperatures

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Originally Posted by Palarran View Post
So, what is there to see in these historic cities now?

Historic cities via water to me are Rhodes, Istanbul, Valletta, Siracusa, Korcula, Gibraltar, Horta, etc. You can still walk streets that are 1000+ years old. I mean - the same stones in the streets were there a 1000 years ago. Well, not Gibraltar or Horta, but similar feel.

I love the Great Lakes and have boated them my whole life. Good for nice forested views with some small hills and a few large sand dunes. Lots of tourist towns with fudge and corn dogs but pretty lacking on real significant history.
Just want to make sure I get it; history is insignificant if it isnít ancient?
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Old 27-01-2018, 08:43   #12
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Re: Great Lakes Surface Water Temperatures

I can only speak for the south half of Lake Erie. It is very nice swimming from July on. And I am a confessed sissy when it comes to swimming in cold/cool water. 80+ please.
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Old 27-01-2018, 09:25   #13
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Re: Great Lakes Surface Water Temperatures

Iíve spent most of my sailing life cruising Lake Superior, and much of that along the north shore. It is cold all year round, although like all the Lakes, is trending upwards as the climate warms. According to those who measure these things, Superior averages around 4C year-round, but of course does get warmer in the summer months.

If the wind has been calm, and the sun has been out, the surface temperatures of the bays can get to a quite pleasant 16C to 18C. But donít dive down too deep . The cold water isnít far below, and as soon as the wind comes, it churns back up, and cools back down.

On my first crossings of the Big Lake I learned how important it is to run a heater out there. Our water temperature gauge was showing 4 to 5 C as soon as we got offshore, and by the time we were 10 hours into the crossing (took us about 36 hrs I think), the interior cabin temperature settled in to the same 5C. Thatís pretty chilly.

I personally love colder areas, which I guess is why weíre now in Newfoundland (sailed there last season). Ironically, where we are right now on the west side of The Rock is a lot warmer than Lake Superior. Feels darn right tropical to me .
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Old 27-01-2018, 09:45   #14
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Re: Great Lakes Surface Water Temperatures

Best Lake is Lake Huron and at the north end you have Manitoulin Island and then on the north side of Manitoulin you have the best gunkholing around. Surface temperatures in July, August and September are great for swimming but at a hundred feet you are 2-4C and should be wearing a dry suit. I live at the south end of Lake Huron and sail out of Sarnia Yacht Club and Bridgeview Marina and Port Huron Yacht Club and we love to race against each other every Wednesday night and Sunday afternoon. Ok as far as the other Great Lakes, they all have vibrant Sailing. The north side of Lake Superior is definitely on my bucket list.
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Old 27-01-2018, 10:04   #15
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Re: Great Lakes Surface Water Temperatures

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Just want to make sure I get it; history is insignificant if it isnít ancient?
I realize this is hard to grasp, but pretty much all "historic" sites in the states don't physically exist anymore or are tourist reproductions. So there's very little to visit except a library or a bronze plaque. And significance is definitely different when you compare cities that have existed for 1000's of years with populations that number in the millions to a log outpost with a garrison of 30.

Hagia Sophia


Valletta


Colonial Fort Michilimackinac


But the question was about temperature of the lakes. IMO it depends on which lake, what time of year, and which way the wind is blowing.
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