Great Lakes ice in retreat


As spring settles in, the Great Lakes ice is in retreat.

Great Lakes ice coverage drops over 25 percent from February to March.
Images: NOAA CoastWatch.

When Echo last reported ice coverage on Feb 26, coverage neared 90 percent among the lakes. And earlier this month, it remained at 80 percent.

Now the ice dips below 55 percent coverage. Click and drag the arrows in the center of the image to reveal the dramatic ice cover decrease in a month.

This week’s forecast hovers around historic average temperatures in the region, some above and some below freezing.

The fate of lake ice continues to depend on daily temperature changes and wind, or lack of wind.

Temperature data from Feb 25 to March 20. Image: Weather Underground

Temperature data from Feb 25 to March 20. Image: Weather Underground

Notice how the ice has not only thinned and melted, but the adjacent landscape begins to change as snow cover and streams give way to flowing water.

Last year it was not until June that the Great Lakes were completely free of ice.

But veteran ice-observer George Leshkevich, a research scientist at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, predicts an earlier date for ice-free waters.

The warming trend Leshkevich noted from mid to late February last year, comes late this year. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t made an impact on the 40 years of record.

This is the second consecutive year Great Lakes ice cover has peaked above 80 percent.

“I don’t remember seeing two severe years like this. Many times you’ll have two or three mild to normal years and then a more severe year. But the past two years have been severe, record-breaking even and controlled by weather patterns in our area,” Leshkevich said.

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