Great Lakes Ice Cover Is the Largest We’ve Seen This Century

Great lakes ice cover

MODIS satellite image of the Great Lakes on Feb. 7, 2014. Bright white in this image shows mainly clouds over the Great Lakes, however, you can see lake ice in southern and western Lake Michigan, southern Lake Superior, and far western Lake Erie. (UW-SSEC/Google Earth)

(SOURCE)    One effect of the persistently cold winter of 2013-2014 is showing up on the world’s largest group of freshwater lakes.

According to an analysis by NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, ice covered 78.7 percent of the Great Lakes on February 6. Not since early 1996 has ice been so widespread on the Great Lakes.

This is an abrupt turn around from the past four winters, during which the peak ice coverage remained around 40 percent or less. As you can see in the graph below, the 40-year average is just over 51 percent.

Great Lakes Peak Ice Coverage

Yearly peak Great Lakes ice coverage (percent) from 1973-2013. (NOAA/GLERL)

Dating to 1973, the two years with the largest ice coverage were 1979 (94.7 percent peak) and 1994 (90.7 percent).

Lake Michigan ice

Ice on Lake Michigan as far as you can see to the horizon in Feb. 2014. (Louise Olson via The Weather Channel Facebook page)

When looking at individual lakes, just over 92 percent of Lake Superior, just under 88 percent of Lake Huron, almost 95 percent of Lake Erie, and around 53 percent of Lake Michigan is ice covered. Much deeper Lake Ontario is only about 29 percent of ice covered.

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