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Warm Winter Temperatures Reduce Great Lakes Ice to Record Lows

2 months ago
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Record warm winter weather is severely impacting the extensive ice cover that typically forms across the Great Lakes at this time of year.

Just 5.9 per cent of the total surface area of the Great Lakes currently has ice compared to a long-term average of around 40 per cent in mid-February based on analysis from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Warm Winter Averages Increasing

When comparing average winter temperatures over the past two decades to the first half of the 1900s, the upper Midwest has undergone some of the strongest warming trends nationwide.

Despite annual fluctuations, long-term records display a 25 per cent reduction in peak annual ice cover as well as fewer days with ice since 1973 according to data from the Fifth National Climate Assessment.

The diminishing ice cover follows broader global trends of lakes freezing later into winter and thawing sooner in spring across the Northern Hemisphere.

This January was the warmest on record worldwide, extending eight consecutive months of record-high temperatures according to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. Declines in lake ice can substantially impact water levels, lake-effect snow, cultural heritage, ecosystems, and winter recreation.


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