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Our Great Lakes Ice Status

Due to the extreme cold we have experienced, our Great Lakes have reached 62 percent ice coverage currently.  In weeks ahead, it may affect our weather being that it will be more cold, less lake-effect snow, but more sun!  Currently, the lakes ice coverage is:

  • Lake Superior  69%
  • Lake Michigan 46%
  • Lake Huron is 71%
  • Lake Erie is 96%
  • Lake Ontario 26%

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George Leshkevich, physical scientist at NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, says the oddity this year is how early in the winter this amount of ice cover has formed. The 62% ice cover already ranks this year as 17th in maximum ice coverage in the last 40 years. 1994 had the highest ice cover at 94.8%.  Dry arctic air has taken over much of the Great Lakes region, allowing for clearing skies over land, and even over parts of the lakes.

What will this mean for Michigan’s weather?

It looks like the Great Lakes will become mostly ice covered in the next few weeks. This will have a big impact on our weather here in Michigan.

First off, the lake effect snow will not exist for much of the winter, though, perhaps later in the season when the ice melts, there can be some light lake effect snow.  The flip side of no lake effect clouds is more sunshine. You will probably notice more sunshine over the next month, especially on cold, dry days.  But the effects of frozen Great Lakes is that we won’t have the warming effect from Lake Superior and Lake Michigan anymore. In the recent two arctic outbreaks, while Michigan had low temperatures of five to 10 below zero, just across the lake in Wisconsin it was 20 below zero. Our “warmth” was due to Lake Michigan’s 40 degree waters.

When the ice forms, Lake Michigan won’t help us anymore. So if we get a third arctic outbreak, we may plunge to our coldest temperatures of the winter. This may happen in the next three weeks. As we get into late February, the increased power of the sun usually helps warm Michigan up a few degrees.

As always, spring season will come, and eventually we will be hot once again!

(Source:   Mark Torregrossa, Chief Meterologist; MLive 1-29-14)