Lake Michigan, particularly the southern basin, is subject to recurrent episodes of massive sediment resuspension by storm-induced waves and currents. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the climatology of these events for Lake Michigan, including an analysis of associated meteorological conditions. This paper begins by examining turbidity records from two water treatment plants (Chicago, IL and St. Joseph, MI) for which long-term records are available. The turbidity records from the two plants show significant differences indicating that turbidity measurements from a single location would probably not be representative of a basin-wide climatology. A one-dimensional sediment resuspension and deposition model for fine-grained sediments is then developed and calibrated with data from the water treatment plants. The one-dimensional model is applied at 15 points around the southern basin for a 45-year period for which Lake Michigan wave climatology is available and the results are averaged to obtain a basin-wide turbidity index (Southern Lake Michigan Turbidity Index, SLMTI). A frequency distribution of the turbidity index is presented and meteorological conditions associated with the largest events are examined. Our analysis indicates that significant resuspension events in southern Lake Michigan are usually caused by a strong cyclone passing to the east of the lake. The most likely time of the year for this to occur is October to April. There is an average of 1 event per year with SLMTI above 25 mg/L and each event typically lasts about 3 days. Our analysis indicates that events have occurred more frequently since the late 1980s as the number of winter storms has increased and ice cover has decreased.
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Vol. 32 • No. 1