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What’s the Ice Coverage on the Great Lakes?

7 Dec 2017, 11:19 am

With lake effect snow in the forecast across the Great Lakes, that made us ask here at WeatherNation, how much of the Great Lakes is covered by ice at this point in the season?

This is important question to ask because ice cover has a significant impact on the lake effect snow. Typically, the more ice cover there is on the lakes, the less lake effect snow. It should be noted here that lake effect snow can occur even with ice-covered lakes, mainly because of frictional differences between land and ice cover.

Picture of foot prints in the the snow from recent lake effect snow in western New York.

One thing is clear, its been a very warm fall across much of the upper Midwest and eastern United States. Plus, it is still early in the fall and winter seasons. These two reason alone means that there is  likely not a large amount of ice on the lakes. Sure enough, this is the case.

Great Lakes Ice Cover from December 6th, 2017. 0.1 percent of the Great Lakes is covered by ice. Source: Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

According to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, 0.1% of the Great Lakes is covered with ice. That equates to a surface area of 94.25 square miles, or about two-fifths or 40 percent of the land area of Chicago.

With an open water on the Great Lakes and plenty of cold air to flow across them never over the next week or so, expect more opportunities for lake effect snow.

For WeatherNation, I am Meteorologist Marcus Walter.

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