Animated satellite data shows record-setting Great Lakes ice


Changes in Great Lake water temperature for 12 months between April 8, 2013 and April 7, 2014. Photo: NOAA

The longest period of ice cover in the Great Lakes officially ended on June 6 — much to the relief of everyone who suffered post-traumatic stress from last year’s harsh winter.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA] recently released a year’s worth of Great Lakes surface temperatures. The animation at right shows ice cover and temperature for one day each month of the year.

The one below shows the same information for every day of the year.

In the 40 years of collecting data there hasn’t been ice cover that has lasted this long, said Anne Clites, physical scientist for the NOAA. March 6, 2014 had the second most ice cover recorded in the Great Lakes with 92 percent of the surface covered, according to the Great Lake Environmental Research Laboratory. The most ever recorded is 94 percent in 1979.

The ice may be gone but the consequences linger. It could lead to cooler summer water, which isn’t a consequence only for Great Lakes swimmers. It also means less evaporation during the summer, which could lead to higher lake levels in the fall, Clites said.

The increased period with ice may have benefited some fish, Clites said. For instance, the ice helps protect the eggs of whitefish.


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