North America’s Coldest Winter In Decades May See Great Lakes Freeze Over

  • Date: 15/02/14
  • Eric D. Lawrence, Detroit Free Press

Freeze pushes Great Lakes ice cover toward ’79 record

Most of Lake Erie is now covered by ice, as seen in the satellite image taken on Jan. 9, 2014. (Source: NASA)

If this winter needed a theme song, it might be Ice Ice Baby.

The Great Lakes are on the cusp of a record for ice cover.

“In the last one to two weeks, we’ve seen rapid accumulations on Lakes Superior, Huron and Michigan,” said Jeff Andresen, an associate professor in Michigan State University’s geography department who also is the state climatologist.

The ice cover on the lakes increased from 79.7% to 88.4% just in the past week, putting the region close to the record of almost 95% set in February 1979, according to data compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor.

The extensive ice cover has had some interesting and positive effects, like shutting off lake-effect snow, making it sunnier in portions of states near the lakes and limiting evaporation, which could help boost lake levels.

And the ice cover could help delay the spring warm-up — good news for farmers as it helps keep certain crops, like fruit trees, dormant longer and less susceptible to freezing early in the growing season — Andresen said.

The winter of 2013-14 also is shaping up to be one of the five coldest, at least in Michigan’s recorded history, Andresen said, although it’s still early to say for certain.

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