ST. ALBANS — With the water level in Lake Champlain reaching historic lows, a walking path has emerged between Kamp Kill Kare State Park and an island in St. Albans Bay. A few residents basked in the mid-afternoon sunshine Thursday, driving motorized toy cars across the dry passageway.
Steve Langevin, president of the St. Albans Area Watershed Association (SAAWA), said the lake levels are closing in on a record all time low from over a century ago.
In 1908, the lake was 92.4 feet deep, according to Breck Bowden, the director of the Vermont Water Resources & Lake Studies Center. At various times this year, the lake has reached and gone below 93 feet, he said.
As of today, lake levels are at 93.52 feet in Burlington, according to the United States Geological Survey.
Langevin attributed the low levels to the lack of a big rainfall. “It’s really clear in St. Albans Bay,” he said, referring to the 100 feet or more of shoreline visible.
Bowden agreed and said the rain Vermont has gotten has fallen on dry and thirsty soil. “It takes a lot of rainfall to make up what’s called the soil water deficit,” he said. Until that is made up, the lake and other waterways won’t get much in the way of runoff, he explained.
The average annual rainfall in Burlington is 36.79 inches, according to federal climate data. The rainfall for this year, as of today, is 21.04 inches.
Bowden said it’s interesting to contemplate that a couple months prior to Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, the lake levels were at a record high.
It’s important to note that Lake Champlain has seen record highs and lows in just five years because this is one of the consequences of climate change we’ve been recognizing for a while now, he said.
It’s not just about overall higher temperatures or more precipitation, Bowden continued. Climate change is going to cause extraordinary variability in runoff, lake levels and more from one year to the next.
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