Climatic Change

, Volume 127, Issue 2, pp 305–319 | Cite as

Paleo-reconstructed net basin supply scenarios and their effect on lake levels in the upper great lakes

  • Yonas Ghile
  • Paul Moody
  • Casey Brown


Paleo-reconstructed hydrologic records offer the potential to evaluate water resources system performance under conditions that may be more extreme than seen in the historical record. This study uses a stochastic simulation framework consisting of a non-homogeneous Markov chain model (NHMM) to simulate the climate state using Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI)-reconstructed data, and K-nearest neighbor (K-NN) to resample observational net basin supply magnitudes for the Great Lakes of North America. The method was applied to generate 500 plausible simulations, each with 100 years of monthly net basin supply for the Upper Great Lakes, to place the observed data into a longer temporal context. The range of net basin supply sequences represents what may have occurred in the past 1,000 years and which can occur in future. The approach was used in evaluation of operational plans for regulation of Lake Superior outflows with implications for lake levels of Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie, and their interconnecting rivers. The simulations generally preserved the statistics of the observed record while providing new variability statistics. The framework produced a variety of high and low net basin supply sequences that provide a broader estimate of the likelihood of extreme lake levels and their persistence than with the historical record. The method does not rely on parametrically generated net basin supply values unlike parametric stochastic simulation techniques, yet still generates new variability through the incorporation of the paleo-record. The process described here generated new scenarios that are plausible based on the paleo and historic record. The evaluation of Upper Great Lakes regulation plans, subject to these scenarios, was used to evaluate robustness of the regulation plans. While the uncertain future climate cannot be predicted, one can evaluate system performance on a wide range of plausible climate scenarios.


Great Lake Lake Level Palmer Drought Severity Index Glacial Isostatic Adjustment International Joint Commission 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was supported by a research contract from the Institute of Water Resources, US Army Corps of Engineers, as a contribution to the International Upper Great Lakes Study. The authors thank David Fay, Bill Werick, Wendy Leger and Eugene Stakhiv for making this work possible. The authors also wish to thank the anonymous reviewers who made this work better through their constructive criticism.

Supplementary material

10584_2014_1251_MOESM1_ESM.txt (3.7 mb)
erie_NBS (TXT 3762 kb)
10584_2014_1251_MOESM2_ESM.txt (3.9 mb)
M-H_NBS (TXT 3948 kb)
10584_2014_1251_MOESM3_ESM.txt (3.1 mb)
STC_NBS (TXT 3160 kb)
10584_2014_1251_MOESM4_ESM.txt (3.9 mb)
Sup_NBS (TXT 3948 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht (outside the USA) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Natural Capital ProjectStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  2. 2.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA

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