What is the relationship of Lake Michigan wave heights to the direction and speed of the winds?
A wind blowing the length of Lake Michigan’s 300-plus mile north-south axis will produce the greatest wave heights. Considering constraints of the lake’s limited fetch, the highest waves that could be generated under the strongest possible wind conditions would be just over 20 feet. Factors that influence wave height–in addition to length of the fetch–include wind speed and duration. In general, the stronger the wind and the longer it blows across the lake, the higher the waves that will be produced. Thermal stability is also a factor, with cold air blowing across warm water (unstable) producing higher waves, all conditions being equal, than warm air blowing across cold water (stable).