Lake Ontario 2017 Water Levels Only 4 centimetres Above 1973 Monthly Maximum. But well above average. Lake Deluge Exceeds Leaf Drought !

See May/June 2017 updates at end of this post.

See 2019 review here

Some records are made to be broken, whether its the Leaf's Stanley Cup drought or Lake Ontario flooding. At right are the Leaf logos over the years. See the top right logo they had in 1952? And see the current bottom right logo? Old is new again with the logo, right? Same thing with maximum water levels in Lake Ontario.

Back in 1952, from March to June monthly Lake Ontario levels hit records. In 1973 those April and May records were broken .. April 1973 was just 3 cm above May 1952 average, and May 1973 was a measley 1 cm above May 1952. It has taken 44 years to break the spring records again in 2017.

Below are historical average and maximum Lake Ontario water levels from the Departments of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment and Climate Change:

Lake Ontario Water Level flooding erosion maximum
Lake Ontario Historical Water Levels - Average, Maximum and Minimum Monthly Elevations (right y-xis is elevation
above sea level, left y-axis is depth in metres above reference datum of  74.2 metres).

This is from the April 2017 bulletin available here at this link. The historical average, maximum, and minimum monthly values are shown in the table below (see full table here).

On May 28, 2017 the Lake Ontario Level is 1.69 metres above the reference datum elevation of 74.2 metres, meaning an actual water elevation of 74.2 + 1.69 = 75.79 metres above sea level. Hourly levels can be graphed or tabluated from this site. The graph below shows lake levels generally leveling off and rising slightly in the last weeks of May 2017 (y-axis is the depth above the datum):

Lake Ontario water levels flood shoreline erosion
Real time Lake Ontario water depth above reference datum of 74.2 metres up to May 28, 2017.

Relative to maximum historical values, the May 28, 2017 depth of 75.69 is 4 centimetres above the previous 1973 May monthly maximum of 75.65, and 4 cm below the previous June monthly maximum of 75.73 m. And 75.69 is just 7 centimetres above the 1952 May average. We visited the Outer Harbour Marina yesterday and levels have flooded the fixed perimeter dock / walkway so that temporary paths to the boat slips have been made - so yes, levels are above average and many fixed shore features have been built for the averages and not the maximum levels.

The current Lake Ontario levels are causing a higher erosion potential further inland with waves nearly undermining the boardwalk near Woodbine Beach as shown in this picture:

Lake Ontario water levels
Beaches boardwalk erosion with above average Lake Ontario water levels 2017.

Gabion baskets (metal wire cages filled with stone), and armour stone (large boulders), are protecting the boardwalk in the Beaches from encroaching lake levels. Further west at Woodbine Beach "Puddlegeddon" is raging on, interfering with volleyball plans although the puddles are subsiding.

Woodbine Beach Puddle-geddon, Puddle-pocolypse, Puddle-o-rama, Puddle-nado, Puddle-duddle ... umm its a puddle and
Lake Ontario levels are a whopping 4 centimetres higher than a previous maximum monthly value.
While you could say water levels are high for volley ballers who have been playing in the Woodbine Beach league for almost 20 years, the levels are only 4 centimetres above the previous May maximum. So it is not unexpected that in a 100 year monitoring record, you exceed an earlier maximum every so often. That is what statistically is supposed to happen with observations of natural systems. Today's Lake Ontario levels are not significantly above the maximum values 65 years ago in 1952 or 44 years ago in 1973.

Need up to date Lake Ontario levels 24-7? You can call these numbers to get the current reading, and the maximum and minimum in the past 12 hours. That will include any short term effects from wind set-up (seiches) that tilt the lake higher on one side than another cool. Here are the numbers:

Toronto - (416) 868-6026
Kingston - (613) 544-9264
Burlington - (905) 544-5610
Cobourg - (905) 372-6214
Port Weller - (905) 646-9568

Remember to add 74.2 metres to he number Max Headroom tells you on the phone. He's no Siri or Alexa but you can get the level in English or French.

You want more Great Lake real time water level information like the ones above? Call these numbers:

The Canadian Hydrographic Service operates a network of announcing gauges at its stations on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. The following stations can be accessed by telephone at the number listed:

Lake Superior
at Thunder Bay - (807) 344-3141
at Rossport - (807) 824-2250
at Michipicoten - (705) 856-0077
at Gros Cap - (705) 779-2052

St. Marys River
above the lock at Sault Ste Marie - (705) 949-2066
below the lock at Sault Ste Marie - (705) 254-7989

North Channel
Thessalon - (705) 842-2215
at Little Current - (705) 368-3695

Georgian Bay
at Parry Sound - (705) 746-6544
at Midland - (705) 526-6413
at Collingwood - (705) 445-8737

Lake Huron
at Tobermory - (519) 596-2085
at Goderich - (519) 524-8058

St. Clair River
at Point Edward (Sarnia) - (519) 344-0263
at Port Lambton - (519) 677-4092
Detroit River
at Amherstburg - (519) 736-4357

Lake Erie
at Bar Point - (519) 736-7488
at Kingsville - (519) 733-4417
at Erieau - (519) 676-1915
at Port Stanley - (519) 782-3866
at Port Dover - (519) 583-2259
at Port Colborne - (905) 835-2501

Lake Ontario
at Port Weller - (905) 646-9568
at Burlington - (905) 544-5610
at Toronto - (416) 868-6026
at Cobourg - (905) 372-6214
at Kingston - (613) 544-9264

St. Lawrence River
at Brockville - (613) 345-0095
above the lock at Iroquois - (613) 652-4426
below the lock at Iroquois - (613) 652-4839
at Morrisburg - (613) 543-3361
at Cornwall - (613) 930-9373
at Summerstown (Lake St. Francis) - (613) 931-2089


Lake Ontario Water Level Update May 2017 

The May water level bulletin in out at this link. It shows we finally broke the record for maximum recorded Lake Ontario water level for May (see chart below). As of May 10 there was no record breaking - as noted in the Environment and Climate Change Canada LEVELnews:

"By the end of April, Lake Ontario had risen to levels that haven’t been seen since 1993, and reached near record levels in the first week of May. By May 10 the daily average Lake Ontario water level was 75.80 m, only 2 cm below the highest level ever recorded (1918–2016) at the beginning of June 1952."

Lake Ontario water elevation
Lake Ontario Water Level
Near Woodbine Beach in Toronto's Beaches neighbourhood, the shore erosion has caused the boardwalk to now be fenced-off. Beyond the armour stone, gabion basket and rip rap revetement that has protected some portions of the boardwalk, the shore has washed away and the boardwalk is undermined, suspended and sagging, hence the barriers:

Lake Ontario Erosion Boardwalk

It makes you wonder what is more effective and reliable, the grey infrastructure in the distance (conventional Armour Stone, gabion baskets (not visible below the surface stones), "rip rap" limestone, or the softer treatment of green infrastructure soil and roots in the foreground that has all washed away due to the force of high water and waves. Basically, the boardwalk damage happened beyond where the conventional grey infrastructure ended, where the green infrastructure failed. This experience suggests that old-fashioned grey infrastructure is more reliable and effective at erosion protection than softer revetment. Certainly the green part of the shore was robust for low lake levels and erosion forces, but not strong enough for above average conditions like we see in Spring 2017 on Lake Ontario.


June 24, 2017 Update:

The erosion damage restoration (two layers of armour stone) has been installed along the boardwalk and will provide future erosion protection ... because water level records are made to be broken.

And further west Woodbine Beach has been drying up, and volleyball has returned to larger areas (in the background) now that Lake Ontario water levels are returning to their normal lower elevations. But there is still some evidence of spring 2017 Puddlegeddon.


For and updated review of historical Lake Ontario water levels see this new post that explores Toronto Island storms and flooding.

Prime Minister Trudeau Makes False Statements on Extreme Weather - Says 100 Year Storms Happening Every Few Years Due To Climate Change - Contradicts Environment Canada Scientists and Published Research

Point-Gatineau Flooding in May 1974
Below are my comments sent today to iHeartRADIO given PM Trudeau stated that:

"The frequency of extreme weather events is increasing, and that's related to climate change," the prime minister said. "We're going to have to understand that bracing for a 100-year storm is maybe going to happen every 10 years. Or every few years."

Prime Minister Trudeau states storm frequency is increasing
and ignores issues of land use planning in historical floodplains
when trying to explain flooding in Gatineau in May 2017. Perhaps
our first official "Climate Ken"?

Prime Minister makes false statements in the news article:

Environment Canada scientists has published rainfall trends in Atmosphere-Ocean in 2014 indicating that we are not having more extreme weather, or more frequent 100-year storms. This is link to the journal abstract which states that " The decreasing regional trends for the 5- to 15-minute duration amounts tend to be located in the St. Lawrence region of southern Quebec and in the Atlantic provinces" :

The misconception that storm intensity or frequency is increasing can be traced back to disproved statements by the insurance industry that confused predictions with past observations as clearly shown here:

This work exposed that the media has misreported the facts in the official federal Engineering Climate Datasets. This data - used by engineers to design infrastructure across the country - shows for example that there are twice as many statistically significant DECREASING extreme rainfall trends as increasing ones in southern Ontario. This is the official federal data. My work with Advertising Standards Canada over the past 1 1/2 years has corrected false advertising that storm intensity is increasing. The Prime Minister should educate himself on facts and data before making false statements on storm frequency. Environment Canada has often corrected false reporting by the insurance industry on this topic, for example CBC reporting:

Or recent reporting in Canadian Underwriter:

As Environment Canada states regarding the insurance industry "flub" that 40 year storms are happening every 6 years:

Associate Editor’s Note: In the 2012 report Telling the Weather Story, commissioned to the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction by the Insurance Bureau of Canada, Professor Gordon McBean writes: “Weather events that used to happen once every 40 years are now happening once every six years in some regions in the country.” A footnote cites “Environment Canada: Intensity-Duration-Frequency Tables and Graphs.” However, a spokesperson for Environment and Climate Change Canada told Canadian Underwriter that ECCC’s studies “have not shown evidence to support” this statement.

So nobel prize winning scientists have been making up a 'weather story', and the PM has been repeating it.

Many events that are now claimed to be unprecedented and due to climate change are in fact commonplace from a statistical point of view. Even the GO Train flood in Toronto at 2013 was not unprecedented - there was a larger flood 6 weeks before that missed the trains because it happened at night:

The same train was stranded in the same spot in 1981 when there was less pavement in the Don River watershed and less runoff, as shown in this photo:

Engineers, hydrologists, watershed managers, hydraulic engineers/modellers can explain flooding by increased hydrologic stresses (more pavement and more runoff). This is quantifiable and indisputable - here is some example mapping / calculations to show that for Toronto area watersheds:

Mississauga-Toronto Flooding in 2013? Burlington flood in 2014? Climate change or a heck of a lot more pavement? Here are some maps to show the dramatic increase in pavement since the mid 1960's in those areas ... and the creeks are not any bigger than they used to be to convey the runoff:

Important public policies are being created based on mis-reported rainfall trends. This includes expensive climate mitigation plans and taxes to deal with rainfall intensity increases that have NOT occurred. While cheese-eating high school science teachers are making theoretical connections between temperature (global warming) and water vapour holding capacity/extreme rainfall, the real scientists like those at MIT or Columbia are studying the real science and saying these guesstimates of more extreme weather due to higher temperatures are not playing out in the real observations. This is a recent paper on that topic:

Robert Muir, M.A.Sc., P.Eng.


PS - CBC has a nice summary of recurring flooding in Quebec since 1928 at this link

CBC has another great summary from @JudyTrinhCBC showing that this is about poor land use planning decisions (buildings in high risk zones) - 75 % of buildings has a 20% chance of flooding every year being in the 20-year floodplain. Thanks Judy for your stats:

Stats on homes flooded from @ville_gatineau
0 -20 year flood zone: 1428 properties (75% of total) - 20% chance of flooding every year
20 -100 year flood zone: 390 properties - 1-20% chance of flooding every year
outside 100 year flood zone : 70 properties - less than 1% chance of flooding every year

So Prime Minister Trudeau tells us that the storms that affect less than 4% of the properties will happen more often. How about insight on why the other 96% of properties flooded? 


Update - after a year of waiting for a response from the PMO on my asking for data to support the PM's statements on past extreme weather trends, I was emailed a response that confused future predictions with past trends. When I pointed the out and asked for information on statements on past trends I was told the PMO's original answer was 'fulsome' - they cc'd the environment minister and closed the file. Environment minister did not respond but did acknowledge the PMO's forwarding of the request on June 1, 2018:

Like The Kinks I'm "Tired of Waiting" and as Mick Jagger sang "I can't get no satisfaction".


The CBC Ombudsman has recently ruled on the accuracy and impartiality of a CBC report on 100 year storm trends and wetland flood mitigation - in a rare decision, it found that CBC violated standards of journalistic integrity when it reported that 100 year storms were increasing and were the cause of more flooding - see details here: Justin Trudeau has made the same statements as the CBC that were deemed to be inaccurate. The PMO failed in the same way the CBC journalists did in trying to confuse the issue, pointing to predicted changes in rainfall instead of justifying past observations. As the CBC Ombudsman said in his 14 page ruling:

"Let us first examine the contentious sentence in question. It reads: “So called ‘100 year events’ are now occurring sometimes only a few years apart.” That would be an accurate statement if the article was considering all climate-related events – including tornadoes, droughts, heat waves, and forest fires – but that is clearly not the case here. First of all, the article is about flooding, as can be seen from the many photographs illustrating it; furthermore, the sentence immediately preceding the contentious sentence reads: “In recent years, the news has been full of stories of bigger and more violent storms, and massive rainfall and flooding.” Thus, when the article goes on to mention “so-called ‘100 year events,’” it is clear that the events being referred to are episodes of extreme rainfall. One only had to examine the official Environment Canada data for Ontario as well as for the entire country to acknowledge that the claim made in the article was inaccurate. Such acknowledgement would at the same time have addressed the complainant’s criticism regarding the lack of data to corroborate Dr. Feltmate’s claim about the increased frequency of extreme rainfall events in Canada. To make that correction, and for it to be meaningful, the writer would no doubt have had to change more than just the sentence in question – which, I admit, would have contradicted, in part, the theory described in the article and the accompanying interview with Dr. Feltmate. Thus the first two sentences in the article, after being amended transparently, per best practices, would have been replaced by something along these lines: “Although in recent years the news has been full of stories of bigger and more violent storms, and massive rainfall and flooding, there is nothing to prove that this type of precipitation event has been on the rise in Canada. Data compiled by Environment Canada since the 1950s show that there has been no significant change in their frequency.” An insert should then have been added, explaining that the previous version of the article, as well as part of the interview with Dr. Feltmate, contained inaccuracies in that respect, and that this prompted RCI to publish the clarification."

Also, the CBC journalist had elected to ignore Environment Canada data that contradicted it's original reporting, and instead attempted to discount questions on data. In another Ombudsman excerpt:

"He is, incidentally, one of the authors of the Environment Canada study cited above. Dr. Zhang wrote to journalist Marc Montgomery, while the latter was preparing his draft response to the complaint, that: “For Canada as a whole, observational evidence of changes in extreme precipitation is lacking.” I must take RCI to task for not having drawn the obvious conclusion regarding the truthfulness of the sentence that Mr. Muir complained about."


Environment and Climate Change Canada's new report confirms "There do not appear to be detectable trends ..." - see review of more relevant risk factors besides rain trends, consistent with the ECCC report.

Also, updated Engineering Climate Datasets (Version 3.0) show decreases in southern Ontario rainfall intensities based on analysis of observed rain at long term stations.

GO Train flooded in 1981 too. Media misses mark suggesting new normal for extreme weather and flooding.

GO Train flood 1981
Stranded GO Train on Richmond Hill line in 1981 in Don River flood plain.
Does this stranded GO Train in the Don River valley look familiar?:

It should. The same thing happened on July 8, 2013 in the same place.

Back when you were rocking to Queen/Bowie Under Pressure for the first time, Metrolinx was getting to know the flood risks for the Richmond Hill line that started in the late 1970's. These rain line flood risks were documented in the flood inquiry report for Premier Davis.

GO Train flood 2013
Stranded GO Train on Richmond Hill line in 2013 in Don River flood plain.
Fast forward to May 28-29, 2013 and there was a bigger flood in the same place. But it happened at night so no trains, no issue.

Fast forward a bit more to July 8, 2013 and we get this: another stranded GO Train in the same place. Exactly the same place? Wow!

Hello McFly! It's Back to the Future. Too bad GO Trains do not fly away like modified DeLorians do.

Metrolinx had to explain the 2013 incident as an unprecedented event. In fact, it was not unprecendented flooding, or rainfall, but unprecedented judgement to not monitor flood levels at the Todmonden river gauge beside the tracks. A sensor has been in place since 1962 and real time sensors were in place online for years (e.g., TRCA Todmorden gauge).

Under pressure no doubt to explain how known safety risks could be ignored for its workers and passengers, Metrolinx would take a page from Milli Vanilli and 'Blame it on the Rain".

Climate change, or extreme rainfall, is a  quick and easy scapegoat for everything that has gone wrong in flood risk management or municipal drainage design over the past 50 to 100 years. But it does not explain incidents that should be managed as well-known operational risks. So 2013 was a big year for 'Blurred Lines", both for Robin Thicke and also for evidence-based, data-driven reporting on flood risk factors.

Today there is widespread misreporting that water level sensors were installed on the Don River after the flash flood of 2013. Perhaps extra sensors have been installed? The truth is that they have been in place for a long time.

If we are going to have effective solutions to flood risk mitigation, we have to accurate in characterization of flood causes, whether it was deficient Keating Channel dredging in the early 1980's or operational decisions in 2013. Otherwise we will "Blame it on the Rain" like Milli Vanilli and concoct misguided solutions to problems that do not exist. Solutions that could be worse than useless and miss real effective opportunities for risk mitigation.


PS - the maximum short term rainfall intensity recorded at the long term climate station / rain gauge in downtown Toronto was in 1962 (22.4 mm over 5 minutes). It caused widespread flooding even when the city was not a fully developed or intensified as it is now. Flooding blocked roads and in my neighbourhood there were hundreds of flooded basements as well:

So there is not really a new normal for rainfall and flooding, just more of yesterday's extremes, accentuated with 24-hour cable news, 24-7 weather reporting, and cell phone videos to capture every popped manhole, soggy underpass, or puddle that occurs in a big storm.