It was a winter to remember and the remnants are still there for us to see on Lake Superior. The satellite image above is from earlier in the week. Note the open water to the north due to persistent northerly winds which set in early in the week and pushed the ice to the south.
Ice concentration on Lake Superior was still estimated at 64 percent as of Thursday (Image 2). This is the highest concentration of ice so late in the season since at least 1980 and possibly for the satellite era (which began in 1979).
It will take time to melt this ice because it is thick. Image 3 is a picture taken aboard a Coast Guard Ice Breaker 10 nautical miles northwest of Whitefish Point on March 22. The ice was estimated to be 18 inches thick with six to 12 inches of snow on top of it. I heard a story that a Coast Guard Ice Breaker had to go out and aid another Coast Guard Ice Breaker that was stuck ON TOP of an ice sheet on Lake Superior! Now that has to be thick ice to support the weight of a heavy Coast Guard boat.
I occasionally get asked about ice in the arctic. You may have heard scary sounding stories about how the ice is melting there and that the arctic may be an ice-free soon and so on. That will not happen. Right now, ice is at its seasonal maximum. However, it is still below average in coverage in spots for instance north of Norway and east of Greenland (Image 4). But it is nothing to be alarmed about. Some of the ice will melt and disperse mainly due to winds and warm water flushing into the arctic from the south this summer. But that happens every year and the ice will grow back again starting next fall.
Globally, sea ice is well above average. In fact, Image 5 shows it to be nearly a standard deviation above average. This is largely due to Antarctic sea ice which has been running well above average for years both in winter and summer (Image 6). The Antarctic has just passed its summer melt season and ice is beginning to grow back. This could end up being another record winter down there.
Here, our ice and snow, too, will be melting this weekend as warm air looming to our south works in on southerly winds.