Similar to when you blow on a hot cup of coffee and the force spills it over the side, high winds on Lake Erie can cause a buildup of water on one end and receding water on the other, also known as seiche.
“Lake Erie experiences seiche a lot because it’s oriented in the same direction that we typically get wind in, so west to east from Toledo to Buffalo,” said Madeleine Dewey, a coastal planner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Seiches are not uncommon, but in the last five years there have been five major events that caused flooding and erosion in the region. This may be partly due to a lack of ice on the water.
“Seiche has always happened,” said Dewey. “It will probably continue to happen but as we see, in general, warmer temperatures and a warming climate, we’re going to find that there is going to be a bigger frequency in how the lake is shifting.”
The USACE Research and Development Center studied 24 communities along Lake Erie to better understand the magnitude of seiche and build resiliency.
The rise and fall of water levels can also impact travel on the water.
In the spring, a report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Research and Development Center will be released to the public in the hopes of helping people better understand the severity and hazards of seiches.