The Traverse City Ticker reports that with less than 2% ice coverage so far, the Great Lakes are experiencing record low ice cover this winter:
According to Dr. Jia Wang, a research ice climatologist and physical oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, the Great Lakes region is experiencing “warmer-than-usual weather” this season due to a combination of weather patterns including strong La Niña conditions. As a result, the maximum ice cover on the Great Lakes is only projected to reach 30 percent this year, Wang says – “way below” the average of 53 percent. Lake Michigan is expected to reach a maximum ice cover of just 23 percent, compared to an average 40 percent.
The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay has records for nearly two centuries on the freeze rate of West Grand Traverse Bay, including when it reaches the freeze point each year (if at all) and how many days it stays frozen over. While the Great Lakes often follow cyclical patterns, data shows that trends appear to be intensifying in recent years – a result many scientists attribute to climate change and include categories like water levels and ice cover. That trend can also be seen in Grand Traverse Bay freeze records, according to Watershed Center Executive Director Christine Crissman.
“If you look at the last 170 years overall, the bay definitely freezes over a majority of the time,” she says. “But if you start looking more closely at recent years, we are seeing a trend of less ice cover. From 1980 to present, the bay has only frozen over 38 percent of the time. Before 1980, it was 84 percent of the time. And even when it does freeze now, it doesn’t tend to freeze as long as it used to. It might be 20 to 40 days, where it used to be 70 days, 116 days.”
Charles took this photo back in 2015 off Gills Pier on the Leelanau Peninsula. Head over to his Flickr for more!