Thursday, February 26, 2015

Great Lakes ice coverage

It's amazing to think how much of an influence the Great Lakes have on weather throughout the Midwest. 

Great Lakes ice coverage is nearly 100% on Lake Superior, Huron and Erie.  Total ice coverage over the lakes is about 85%.  This time last year, ice coverage was only at 77%.  Surprised?  I know I was.  You would think with the extreme cold we had during the winter of 2014, ice coverage over the lakes would be higher than this year.  To find understand why that might be, you have to look at what happened weather-wise last year, versus what's been happening so far this winter season.

I spoke with one of my good friends over at the Chicago National Weather Service, Lead Forecaster Matt Friedlein, and he said that the ice from last year came on strong late in the season, after not much at all through early February.  "It was likely because of so many systems passing over the Great Lakes bringing us non-stop snow and for the lakes non-stop wind, so ice could not develop with any depth.  This year, we have had regular cold high pressure systems in January and February to diminish winds and allow ice to thicken and persist."

If the ice were to stay thick through the remainder of winter, which it may, then the start of spring could be cooler with a slower warm up into March and April.

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