Great Lakes ice coverage running way behind averages in the milder than normal winter weather.

This early week analysis of the per cent of each Great Lake with ice underscores how the milder than normal winter weather has impacted ice coverage.

Lake Michigan is 8% ice covered–and the ice is limited to the lake’s northernmost reaches. That’s 40% the observed ice coverage averaged from 1973 through 2022.

But Lake Michigan isn’t alone in its sub-par ice coverage. Check out the % of average ice coverage at this point in the cold season observed from 1972-2022:

  • Lake Superior 21% of average 1973-2022 ice cover
  • Lake Huron 32% of the 49-year average
  • Lake Erie 1% of the 49 year average
  • Lake Ontario 15% of 49 average

So what are the impacts of the reduced ice coverage? EPA notes that decreased ice coverage lengthens the shipping season–a positive at first glance. But the decreased ice coverage increases evaporation from the lakes dropping lake levels which may ultimately drop water levels impacting shipping on shipping channels. This can also impact precipitation downwind of the Great Lakes, increasing lake effect snow, as an example. And it impacts ecosystems.

Read the full EPA analysis of the changing ice scene on the Great Lakes here.

WITH A COLDER PATTERN PREDICTED NEXT WEEK there will will likely be changes in ice coverage.