Thursday, February 19, 2015

Great Lakes Ice Coverage Tops 80 Percent in Consecutive Years For First Time Since 1970s

Ice coverage on the Great Lakes reached 85.4 percent on Feb. 18, marking the second winter in a row that ice coverage has exceeded 80 percent. Of course, last year the Great Lakes went on to record their second highest total ice coverage in records dating to 1973.

As this graph from the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory shows, the last time ice coverage was over 80 percent in back-to-back years was in the 1970s. Specifically, it happened three years in a row from 1977-1979. The long-term average peak ice coverage since 1973 has been about 51 percent.

Ice concentration on Feb. 18 was the highest on Lake Erie (98.09 percent), Lake Huron (92.81 percent) and Lake Superior (91.54 percent).

The ice coverage may continue to grow through the end of the month. Bitter cold temperatures are in place and the Climate Prediction Center branch of NOAA is forecasting a high likelihood of temperatures staying below average through the end of the month.

Will ice coverage reach last year's peak of 92.5 percent? It's not out of the question that it could get close considering last year's peak was on March 6. We'll be tracking this story over the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned.

Until then, if you need a reminder of what spring looks like, here's an animation showing Lake Erie on May, 31 2014, compared to Feb. 15, 2015.