Great Lakes ice cover most extensive since mid-90s - FOX 35 News Orlando

Great Lakes ice cover most extensive since mid-90s

Posted: Updated:
(NOAA) (NOAA)
(NOAA) (NOAA)
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Two outbreaks of the "polar vortex" along with persistent cold temperatures in the Midwest this winter have almost completely frozen over many of the Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) reported that 88 percent of the Great Lakes were frozen as of mid-February. The last time ice cover was even close to this extent was in 1996, when maximum seasonal ice cover was approximately 82 percent.

The map shows ice coverage on the Great Lakes on February 13. Lakes Superior, Erie, Huron, and St. Clair were 90-100 percent ice covered, while Lakes Michigan and Ontario were 82 percent and 43 percent ice covered, respectively. Overall, 88 percent of the Great Lakes were frozen on this date—the most extensive total ice coverage observed so far this winter.

Maximum ice cover on the lower lakes normally occurs between mid-February and end of February, while the maximum on the upper lakes normally occurs between the end of February and early March.

But while ice cover and water levels are known to vary on the Great Lakes from year to year, scientists have observed an overall decrease in ice extent since records began in the early 1970s. From 1973 to 2010, annual ice coverage on the Great Lakes declined by 71 percent (relative to 1973).

So far this winter, extensive ice cover has allowed access into previously inaccessible ice caves near Lake Superior and provided a safe landing spot for an airplane experiencing an emergency over Lake Huron. The effects of extensive ice cover could even last into the summer and fall, potentially contributing to cooler water temperatures.

Since the ice must be melted first before the water below it can be warmed, the lakes could heat up slower—although weather conditions and heat storage in the lakes will be contributing factors as well. Lower water temperatures could also potentially reduce evaporation from the lakes this year, which could help drive water levels up.

Follow Us!

Share Your Weather Photos & Video

Submit Your Weather Photos
  • Stories by Bill BellisMore>>

  • Chicago's 80 degree stretch ended Tuesday

    Chicago's 80 degree stretch ended Tuesday

    Wednesday, August 13 2014 2:25 AM EDT2014-08-13 06:25:10 GMT
    Chicago longest stretch of consecutive days in the 80s ended Tuesday at 12.
    Chicago longest stretch of consecutive days in the 80s ended Tuesday at 12.
  • Near record rainfall soaks Chicago

    Near record rainfall soaks Chicago

    Tuesday, August 5 2014 5:32 PM EDT2014-08-05 21:32:08 GMT
    June of 2014 saw 7.81 inches of rain making it the fifth wettest on record. July started wet, but saw only .10 inches of rain since July 15. That quickly changed on the afternoon and evening of August 4 as a slow moving cold front sagged South.
    June of 2014 saw 7.81 inches of rain making it the fifth wettest on record. July started wet, but saw only .10 inches of rain since July 15. That quickly changed on the afternoon and evening of August 4 as a slow moving cold front sagged South.
  • Lack of 90 degree heat this summer

    Lack of 90 degree heat this summer

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 7:36 PM EDT2014-07-23 23:36:56 GMT
    Tuesday, July 22 was only the third 90 degree day of the meteorological summer and the first in July at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Normally, there are six 90 degree days in Chicago during the month of July.
    Tuesday, July 22 was only the third 90 degree day of the meteorological summer and the first in July at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Normally, there are six 90 degree days in Chicago during the month of July.
Powered by WorldNow

35 Skyline Drive
Lake Mary, FL 32746

Phone: (407) 644-3535
News Tips: (866) 55-FOX35

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices