Great Lakes ice coverage: the highest in 20 years

The Arctic blast from earlier this week has pushed ice coverage of the Great Lakes to the highest level in 20 years. Over the past week, ice coverage on Lake Superior, Huron, Erie, Michigan, and Ontario has increased from 12% to 26%. Below is a look at today’s (January 10th) ice coverage map for the Great Lakes provided by the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

Most impressively, Lake Erie is over 90% frozen over with ice. This is great news for the Buffalo, New York area that will catch a break from the lake effect snow machine that has been running much of the winter so far. So far this winter the city has picked up over 63 inches of snow. With much of the lake ice-covered, when cold winds sweep across the lake, they won’t be able to pick up moisture from the lake and drop it as heavy snow on land.

You can see there’s a big difference when you compare the ice coverage this week to the median ice concentration on average for the week of January 8-14. This is the average between 1973 to 2002.

For the week of January 8th, this is the highest coverage of ice over the Great Lakes since 1994. There were some years back in the 1980s though that had ice coverage of 30 to 50%.

There are milder temperatures in the forecast for this weekend. However thanks to colder temperatures in the extended forecast, ice coverage will likely stay above normal at least through the end of the month. All this frozen water is good news when it comes to water levels for the lakes. Last winter at this time the lakes were struggling with some record low water levels. The frozen water will help in the recovery from those record lows water levels.

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