Lake Michigan is very warm, how will that translate to ice coverage during the winter months?

Beyond The Forecast

(WFRV) – The month of October brought above-average temperatures throughout much of the Midwest following a generally warm summer. Did this have any impact on the water in the Great Lakes? 

Across the board, all of the Great Lakes are running about 4 to 6 degrees above average in terms of water temperatures.  

Lake Michigan’s water temperature is the warmest in recent records at this point of the year to start November.  Here are some other notable years where water temperatures were warm. Normally, Lake Michigan should be sitting around 51 degrees. 

Now we are getting closer to the winter months. Those other years that had warm lake water in November ended up with less ice coverage. Of course, winter temperatures play a huge role in ice coverage.

Green Bay is close by to Lake Michigan, so average temperatures from that location are listed right next to the ice coverage in each winter.  

2000-2001 had very warm water in November 2000. Even with below-average temperatures, ice coverage failed to reach the normal 36% the following year in 2001. 

For the winters of 2016-2017 and 1998-1999, ice coverage was well below normal. Earlier this year, Lake Michigan reached 33.3% peak ice coverage after near average water temperatures in November 2020.

It takes a lot of energy to cool down water. If we don’t get those prolonged cold snaps, especially nearing ice coverage peak months in February and March at the beginning of 2022, it will be difficult for our record warm waters on Lake Michigan to freeze over to average peak ice coverage.

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