Thanks to a string of unusually cold weeks, the inland lakes are frozen solid. And we've even seen some good ice accumulating in a few of the little bays on Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. But is that evidence of a solid freeze this winter?
December's mean temperature was 7.6 below average. And so far, January's cold has been an impressive 16.1 below normal!
Although this weekend's warm up is expected to do little damage to the existing ice, there's another factor to consider. National Weather Service Meteorologist, Todd Kluber, has been watching the ice on Lake Superior and had this to say: "The main factor would be wind breaking up the ice that has formed already. We might lose some of that ice cover. But as far as the lake temperatures are concerned, we're not seeing anything that would necessarily halt what may be some more ice formation later in the month."
So although we may take a few steps back, we expect to continue to make forward progress in building up a good ice pack over the coming weeks, especially between Thunder Bay and Isle Royale and along many of the sheltered areas.
You might ask why we care about ice pack on the Great Lakes, especially Lake Superior. Kluber has been watching lake effect snow for years and had this to say about past icing events: "Having the lake iced over will reduce the lake effect snow because we don't have that moisture and the heat coming off the lake to help produce those lake effect snow showers."
We also lose the moderating effects of the relatively warm water off the lake. So future arctic blasts would feel colder once the lake freezes over.However, it's difficult for Superior to freeze over completely. There's typically some ice shifting around, even in the dead of winter. But the winter of 2008-2009 is one recent year in which we saw a good freeze. 1994 and 1996 we also saw really good ice, and Superior nearly froze over completely.
We expect many more cold air outbreaks before winterâ??s end. So at this time, we see no reason why this year wouldn't be a good one for Great Lakes ice. Even if we do see a solid freeze this year, itâ??s always best to stay off the big lake. Area winds can shift the ice around, making it very unpredictable and dangerous. A massive library of current and historical ice analysis is available. Follow the links below for more!