A new NOAA online visualization and mapping tool, the Lake Level Viewer, will help communities along the U.S. Great Lakes plan for, and adapt to, climate change and changes in lake water levels.
The easy-to-use, interactive tool was developed by the National Ocean Service’s Office for Coastal Management as part of its Digital Coast initiative.
“The Lake Level Viewer provides planners and decision makers with visual lake level scenarios for rise and drop information before it happens,” said Jim Schwab, a certified planner and the manager of the Hazards Planning Center for the American Planning Association. “Lake level scenarios can be incorporated into land use decisions, along with economic, social, and environmental considerations, to make wise investments in public infrastructure and develop livable, resilient communities.”
The viewer uses high-resolution elevation data, enabling users to display and visualize water levels associated with different lake level scenarios with a high degree of accuracy — ranging from zero to six feet above and below average lake level. Users can view elevation models, determine lake water depths at specific locations, examine data confidence, and view societal and economic impacts.
Rising or decreasing lake levels can affect commercial interests as well as shoreline habitats and structures. More than 4,900 miles of U.S. shoreline ring the Great Lakes, of which 3,800 miles are currently mapped on the Lake Level Viewer. The tool covers areas in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.