Great Lakes Maximum Ice Extent

Bill's Blog
Modis Great Lakes 3 9 19 Maximum Ice Extent 80.87%_1552362238122.jpg.jpg

The satellite picture above was taken on Sat. March 9 – the day of maximum ice extent.  Saturday, the Great Lakes peaked at 80.87% ice cover.  According to the records I have, that’s the 9th highest extent in the 47-year satellite record.  Three of the nine highest ice extents have occurred in the last six years.

The greatest ice extent was on Feb. 19, 1979 at 94.7%.  The lowest maximum was on March 7, 2002 at 11.9%.  The average maximum extent is 55%.  The Great Lakes have exceeded that average in four of the last six winters.  After a period of strong winds over the weekend, ice extent on othe Great Lakes dropped to 65.13% on Monday.

High ice extent lowers evaporation over the lakes and can contribute to higher water levels

Here’s the maximum ice extent and corresponding date on the individual Great Lakes:

Maximum ice extent on Lake Superior occurred Saturday March 9, 2019 at 94.65%.  This is a MODIS satellite picture from that day.  There are some thin high clouds coming in, but you can see the large ice extent on the lake.  Marquette was 5.1° colder than average in February along with 89.9″ of snow (season total up to 212″).  With Lake Superior essentially frozen over, that shuts off much of the lake-effect snow, lake effect clouds and lake-effect warming.  For March 1-10, Marquette has had only 7.2″ of snow and they have been 13.2° colder than average.

Here’s Lake Michigan – more open water than not…The Chicago area is snow free except for the piles.  There will be a lot of snowmelt this week.  Lake Michigan ice extent peaked on Friday, March 8 at 55.83%. 

Lake Huron ice extent peaked Saturday, March 9, 2019 at 95.70%.  You can see the snow-covered thick ice in Saginaw Bay and the North Channel.

Here’s a Lake Erie satellite picture.  Lake Erie ice peaked at 93.30% on March 1.  You can see the long, large cracks in the ice.  Lake St. Clair peaked at 100% from Jan. 30 – Feb. 12.

Lake Ontario ice extent peaked at 39.82% on March 1.  In this image, you can see the open water in the deep Finger Lakes and in the Niagara River.  Does the east end of Lake Ontario look a little like a black cat’s head to you? 

Lake ice should decrease with time, but there’s a lot of ice out there and some pretty good side icebergs, especially in Lake Superior…and that will take a long time to completely melt. 

Also – deer on the roof (lots of snow!). 

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