Ice cover over the Great Lakes is well below normal. What does it mean?

Beyond The Forecast

(WFRV) – Nearing the end of January, ice cover over the Great Lakes has been running well-behind. On visible satellite, ice can only be seen in the shallower bays. This includes the Bay of Green Bay.

According to NOAA only 7.7% of the Great Lakes is covered through January 25th. NOAA’s prediction for 2021’s maximum ice coverage is 30% later this winter season which is well below the longtime maximum average coverage of 53%.   

The cause of the lack of ice?

Warm temperatures. The air has been warm and the Great Lake water temperatures have been near record warmth. 2020 was the 9th warmest year on record, which helped heat the lake temperatures to near record highs. Those water temperatures are running about 2-3 degrees above normal. 

The near record water temperatures has caused communities that experience widespread lake effect snow along the Great Lakes to run below normal when it comes to snowfall so far this winter.

These are some other areas close to the Great Lake shoreline with below average snowfall include Green Bay, Milwaukee, Chicago, Marquette, Buffalo, Detroit, and Erie. 

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How will this trend effect the snowfall through the spring? 

There will be more warm water and moisture available. When a colder air mass finally passes over, there could be an increased chance for lake effect snow later in the winter for communities that typically see lake effect snow. The increased chance directly correlates with the warm water temperatures.

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