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Great Lakes Freeze Over, Ice Cover Approaching Record

The Great Lakes are currently 77.5 percent frozen.

The Great Lakes are currently 77.5 percent frozen.

Low temperatures across the Great Lakes are causing greater ice cover than normal, more than 77.5 percent according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

At more than 92 percent frozen, Lake Superior has set a new record for ice cover as of last week. The combined ice cover for the Great Lakes is not far behind that number, and is rapidly approaching the all-time record of 94.76 percent set in the winter of 1979.

While experts are skeptical over whether this winter could best 1979’s expansive ice coverage, 2014 is well above the long-term average of 51 percent. As Michigan braces for colder weather, it is likely that the ice will continue its advance across the Great Lakes. According to Fox 17, the new average set this winter has already reached the highest seen this century.

Some meteorologists speculate that a deep chill could send the Great Lakes’ ice coverage over the record. In fact, 1979’s record ice levels were not the product of a slow buildup, but happened almost overnight. A cold snap late in February of that year increased ice coverage from 66.7 percent to the record, almost total freeze of the Great Lakes. According to MLive.com, lower wind speeds and freezing temperatures may well turn 2014’s winter into a historic one for the world’s largest collection of freshwater lakes.

Here is the coverage rate for each lake taken over the weekend:

  • Lake Superior: 85.8 percent
  • Lake Huron: 85.4 percent
  • Lake Michigan: 63.1 percent
  • Lake Erie: 93 percent
  • Lake Ontario: 33.6 percent

Like usual, Lake Ontario holds the lowest ice coverage of the five, despite the fact that it has the smallest surface area. This is due to the fact that Lake Ontario is actually the second-deepest lake and holds about three times the amount of water as Lake Erie, which carries the record for the most ice cover of all the lakes. In 1996, Lake Erie was almost entirely frozen over.

Image courtesy NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

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