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Great Lakes Ice Cover at Highest Levels in 20 Years

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 4:03 PM GMT on January 09, 2014

This week's intense Arctic cold blast has brought the highest ice coverage on the Great Lakes in twenty years, according to data from the Canadian Ice Service. Ice coverage over Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario increased from 12% to 26% over the past week, reaching levels not seen at this time of year since the last Great Lakes cold blast of this intensity, in January 1994. Most notably, Lake Erie is now more than 90% frozen over. This will spell a temproary end to intense lake effect snowstorms for areas downwind of the lake like Buffalo, New York, since Arctic winds blowing over the lake will no longer be able to pull moisture from open water to fuel heavy snows. Buffalo received more than a foot of snow from Tuesday and Wednesday's lake effect blizzard, which tapered off because the lake froze up so significantly. With Saturday temperatures over southern Great Lakes expected to warm to the mid-40s, accompanied by rain, ice formation on the Great Lakes will slow down this weekend, but ice coverage should still be above normal for the remainder of January.


Figure 1. Great Lakes ice cover on January 9, 2014. Image credit: NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab.


Figure 2. Average ice concentration in the Great Lakes during the week of January 8 - 14, for the years 1973 - 2002. Ice coverage in 2014 (Figure 1) was about double the average. Image credit: NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab.


Figure 3. Ice coverage on the Great Lakes for the week of January 8 for the period 1980 - 2014. The ice coverage this year is the highest since 1994. Canadian Ice Service
.

Increased ice cover will keep Great Lakes water levels higher
The increased ice coverage on the Great Lakes this winter is good news for water levels on the lakes, which are still struggling to recover from some record lows recorded at this time last year. During January 2013, water levels on Lake Michigan and Lake Huron fell to their all-time lowest values since record keeping began in 1918, 29 inches below the long-term average. While the water levels recovered substantially during 2013, which was one of the wettest years in Michigan's history, water levels were still a foot below average at the beginning of 2014. The above average ice cover this winter will reduce evaporation from the Great Lakes, keeping water loss lower than in recent winters. Ice cover on the Great Lakes has declined 71% since 1973, according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Climate by researchers at NOAA's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. The loss of ice is due to warming of the lake waters, which could be due to a combination of global warming and natural cycles, the researchers said. Winter air temperatures over the lower Great Lakes increased by about 2.7°F (1.5°C) from 1973 - 2010, and by 4 - 5°F (2.3 - 2.7°C) over the northern Lakes, including Lake Superior. Lake Superior's summer surface water temperature warmed 4.5°F (2.5°C) over the period 1979 - 2006 (Austin and Colman 2007). During the same period, Lake Michigan warmed by about 3.3°F (1.7°C), Lake Huron by 4.3°F (2.4°C), and Lake Erie (which is shallow and loses and gains heat relatively quickly) showed almost no warming.

The long-term future of Great Lakes water levels is cloudy, since climate change is expected to bring competing effects. A 2011 paper by scientists at NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory found that lake levels could rise or fall, depending upon the climate change scenario used. On the one hand, precipitation has increased by 12% over Michigan during the past century, and is expected to increase even more in the coming decades. This would tend to increase lake levels. However, lake water temperatures are predicted to increase and ice cover decrease, which would heighten evaporation rates. This would tend to lower lake levels. The Army Corps of Engineers is considering adding speed bumps to the bottom of the St. Clair River to slow down drainage of Lake Huron, which would act to increase water levels in Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.


Figure 4. The water level on Lake Huron and Lake Michigan measured during 2012 - 2013 (red line) hit an all-time low during January 2013, beating the previous record set in March 1964. Water levels recovered some during 2013, but were still a foot below normal at the beginning of 2014. Image credit: Army Corps of Engineers.

References
Austin, J. A., and S. Colman, 2007, "Lake Superior summer water temperatures are increasing more rapidly than regional air temperatures: A positive ice-albedo feedback," Geophys. Res. Lett., 34, L06604, doi:10.1029/2006GL029021.

Wang, J., X. Bai, H. Hu, A.H. Clites, M.C. Colton, and B.M. Lofgren, 2012, "Temporal and spatial variability of Great Lakes ice cover, 1973-2010," Journal of Climate 25(4):1318-1329 (DOI:10.1175/2011JCLI4066.1)

Jeff Masters
THE BIG DIG
THE BIG DIG
This is what I call a major snow drift!
Aftermath of 2 straight days of lake effect snow
Aftermath of 2 straight days of lake effect snow
Taken in West Carthage NY

Winter Weather

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

Quoting 1496. PedleyCA:
Denver 24 - San Diego 17 final
The 4 best teams move on. Looking forward to Manning vs. Brady again what episode are we on 4,5?
1502. Grothar
I am up in cold PA. I made it. It only took two days. Well got stuck in PHL. The flight had been cancelled for 2 hours before they made the announcement
Atmosphere is reloading. Looking very stormy across FL this time tomorrow.

Wow just checked Accuweather, no more 80 degree weather until at least the end of Feb. Link
1505. hydrus
Too far out, but certainly would be interesting.
Quoting 1504. GTstormChaserCaleb:
Wow just checked Accuweather, no more 80 degree weather until at least the end of Feb. Link



Nice!!!
Well I'm off, night everyone!
Quoting 1504. GTstormChaserCaleb:
Wow just checked Accuweather, no more 80 degree weather until at least the end of Feb. Link


How much rain by you? I know there was a severe strom that passed just south of Daytona which took out power to 6,000 people. I had intense lightning with 1.37" of rain. That was the highest rain total since October at my location.
This week's weather for West Palm Beach has been cancelled...

1511. Grothar
49.6 degrees (121 F) - Australia's highest temperature in 15 years
Brett Dutschke, Sunday January 13, 2013 - 17:02 EDT

Yesterday (Saturday) Moomba in the far northeast of South Australia recorded a maximum temperature of 49.6 degrees, which makes it the highest temperature recorded in Australia in 15 years.

The last time a higher temperature was recorded was in February 1998, in the Western Australian Pilbara, where Nyang reached 49.8 degrees.

Moomba's 49.6 degrees is also the highest temperature recorded in SA since Oodnadatta reached 50.3 degrees 53 years ago, in January 1960.

Australia's record is held by Oodnadatta, 50.7 degrees, also in January 1960.

Yesterday a wide area surrounding Moomba was also very hot, reaching the high 40s. In far western Queensland Birdsville got to 48.6 degrees, its hottest day in 22 years. In northwestern New South Wales yesterday Wanaaring reached 48.6 degrees, equalling White Cliffs' 48.6 in 1973 as the hottest it has been in NSW in 106 years. In January 1906 Bourke reached 48.9 degrees.

Since this current heatwave began at about New Year, the location which has the hottest week has been Oodnadatta in SA. Oodnadatta averaged a maximum of 46.5 degrees from January 2nd to
Quoting 1504. GTstormChaserCaleb:
Wow just checked Accuweather, no more 80 degree weather until at least the end of Feb. Link


What is your temp today?
1513. wxmod
This is where the water war begins. Lake Powell January 10, 2012 (left) and January 10, 2014. Exactly the same size images.

1514. Grothar
Little known facts.

A duck's quack doesn't echo, and no one knows why.

It is physically impossible for pigs to look up into the sky.

All polar bears are left handed.

A pregnant goldfish is called a twit.



Quoting 1501. GTstormChaserCaleb:
The 4 best teams move on. Looking forward to Manning vs. Brady again what episode are we on 4,5?


Only 3 in the final playoff game, Must be a bunch of semifinal round though. Found one more in semi's, So (4)
Quoting 1514. Grothar:
Little known facts.

A duck's quack doesn't echo, and no one knows why.

It is physically impossible for pigs to look up into the sky.

All polar bears are left handed.

A pregnant goldfish is called a twit.





1. Just scare the duck, it'll echo.

2. Pick pig up, turn face to sky.

3. Do they know how to write? Is this the lost civilization the History Channel has been hinting about?

4. I thought you called me a "twit". Does this make me a pregnant goldfish?
Quoting 1510. GeoffreyWPB:
This week's weather for West Palm Beach has been cancelled...

LOL classic!
Quoting 1512. PedleyCA:


What is your temp today?
Negative 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Patience Climate Patience....
1520. hydrus
Quoting 1514. Grothar:
Little known facts.

A duck's quack doesn't echo, and no one knows why.

It is physically impossible for pigs to look up into the sky.

All polar bears are left handed.

A pregnant goldfish is called a twit.



England is smaller than the state of Florida by 15,409 square miles.

At 188 decibels, the Blue whale is the loudest mammal of all with its deep sound traveling hundreds of miles across the deep oceans.

Honey is the only food that doesn’t spoil. To make 1 pound of honey, bees would have to visit over 2 million flowers. Honey is found in Egyptian tombs still edible after sitting for thousands of years. Tombs themselves preserve there contents well, being almost devoid of atmosphere when sealed off. Some call honey food of the Gods.
Mularkey!



Alright that's more like it. :D

1522. hydrus
Scientists voiced concern in 2012 about how radiation may be affecting humans after a recent finding of mutant butterflies in Japan with abnormal legs, eyes, wings and other mutations were discovered. The mutations were caused by radiation from the Fukushima nuclear accident which was triggered by a major tsunami in March 2011. The tsunami was a direct effect of an earthquake.
Quoting 1522. hydrus:
Scientists voiced concern in 2012 about how radiation may be affecting humans after a recent finding of mutant butterflies in Japan with abnormal legs, eyes, wings and other mutations were discovered. The mutations were caused by radiation from the Fukushima nuclear accident which was triggered by a major tsunami in March 2011. The tsunami was a direct effect of an earthquake.


1524. hydrus


It will be rough on the Great Lakes.
1525. hydrus
1523. GeoffreyWPB 2:06 AM GMT on January 13, 2014

Good evening Geoffrey..
For West Palm Beach...

1527. hydrus
Roughly 90% of the world's population live in the northern hemisphere.
Humphrey Bogart never said "Play it again Sam", in Casablanca.
1530. hydrus
Quoting 1505. hydrus:
Too far out, but certainly would be interesting.
The NAO should be going negative.So I'm not all to surprised.
1532. hydrus
1533. rod2635
Quoting 1527. hydrus:
Roughly 90% of the world's population live in the northern hemisphere.


Well we can blame that on continental drift. AGW gets a bye on that stat
Quoting 1502. Grothar:
I am up in cold PA. I made it. It only took two days. Well got stuck in PHL. The flight had been cancelled for 2 hours before they made the announcement

Welcome to PA! :D
Quoting 1502. Grothar:
I am up in cold PA. I made it. It only took two days. Well got stuck in PHL. The flight had been cancelled for 2 hours before they made the announcement
Glad you made it. Now the Antartica post seems entirely apropos... lol
Quoting 1531. washingtonian115:
The NAO should be going negative.So I'm not all to surprised.
Hmm...I wonder if we are going to have Capt. Trough save us again this year or we get a season like '04, '05, & '08. 2014, 2015, & 2018. Que those years. 2020 should be an interesting year. :D
Tropical Cyclone Warning Center Darwin
Tropical Cyclone Advice #1
TROPICAL LOW
11:10 AM CST January 13 2014
============================================

At 9:30 AM CST, Tropical Low (1000 hPa) located at 10.1S 132.0E or 285 km north northeast of Darwin and 730 km northeast of Wyndham has 10 minute sustained winds of 25 knots with gusts of 45 knots. The low is reported as moving west at 5 knots.

The low is expected to move in a southwesterly direction, close to the Tiwi Islands and the west coast of the Top End. There is the possibility of a tropical cyclone developing in the Timor Sea but GALES are not expected in coastal areas within the next 24 hours, however gales could develop later.

The Territory Controller advises that Northern Territory communities under Watch that now is the time to put together your emergency kit, clear your yards and balconies, and commence home shelter preparations.

Residents of Darwin and Rural Areas are advised that if you DO NOT have accommodation constructed to the Building Code or are unsure of your present accommodation you should determine which public emergency shelter to use. This advice is issued to allow you sufficient time in which to take the necessary precautions before winds reach a dangerous level.

Tropical Cyclone Watches/Warnings
==================================
A Cyclone WATCH has been declared for a developing tropical low for coastal areas from Cape Hotham in the Northern Territory to Kalumburu in Western Australia, including Darwin and Bathurst Island.
Tropical Cyclone Warning Center Wellington
Hurricane Warning
SEVERE TROPICAL CYCLONE IAN, CATEGORY THREE (07F)
13:00 PM NZDT January 13 2014
================================================= =

At 0:00 AM UTC, Severe Tropical Cyclone Ian (970 hPa) located at 28.0S 170.7W has 10 minute sustained winds of 65 knots. The cyclone is reported as moving south southeast at 15 knots.

Hurricane Force Winds
======================
10 NM of the center

Storm Force Winds
==================
30 NM of the center

Gale Force Winds
===============
120 NM of the center in sector from north through east to west and within 60 NM of the center in northwest quadrant

Forecast Positions
===================
12 HRS 29.9S 169.6W
24 HRS 31.6S 168.2W
1539. hydrus
Quoting 1531. washingtonian115:
The NAO should be going negative.So I'm not all to surprised.
Yep- The negative NAO is not forecast to do anything drastic, but with this set up, that could change quickly.
1540. hydrus
Quoting 1539. hydrus:
Yep- The negative NAO is not forecast to do anything drastic, but with this set up, that could change quickly.
Stormy Feb.
2014 will be a year of the unexpected, when a hose unkinks it does so quickly. The jet stream will be a major player in the spring, most likely bringing a robust severe weather season. And if cold winters are any harbinger, based on past hurricane seasons after severe cold snaps; 2014 will bring many majors to the Atlantic basin. Like winters are bipolar now for Europe and the US, the hurricane season will be too. Like playing craps at the casino, pick a number and guess,and you'll be as right as any "expert" on the number of TS and Canes for next season. Anyone seen Sar around lately?
1543. Pallis
Quoting 1523. GeoffreyWPB:


As an expert in such matters I can assure you that Mothra was an allegory of this(Does the moon affect the Earth's climate? - Physics Stack Exchange
physics.stackexchange.com/.../does-the-moon-affec t-the-earths-climate)Gozilla was the allegory of the nuking of Japan. Godzilla was also stolen from H.P. Lovecraft‎ and made anew. The original was Cthulu. Coincidentally George Lucas stole the entire plot for his Star Wars from a 50's Japanese film ...em ... the hidden fortress I think. Don't get me started about Stephen King. Thinly veiled plagiarists all, except Lovecraft of course.
JeffMasters has created a new entry.
Quoting 1529. GeoffreyWPB:
Humphrey Bogart never said "Play it again Sam", in Casablanca.
And Ingrid Bergman said, "Play it, Sam. Play "'As Time Goes By'."
1546. ncstorm
Quoting 1474. TropicalAnalystwx13:
The 12z ECMWF was impressive for eastern North Carolina. A cut-off low develops offshore from a longwave trough over the central United States, bringing snow to the region. Several runs have shown the same. The CMC isn't as bullish, but shows a snow flurry or two.

NWS maintains sunny skies and highs in the upper 40s. We'll see.



TA..if you still here..how much snow for us?
Quoting 1504. GTstormChaserCaleb:
Wow just checked Accuweather, no more 80 degree weather until at least the end of Feb. Link


I wouldn't rule out the day before a front being near 80 with warm advection, but other than that, it appears that the long term pattern looks like mostly cool to cold.