December was warmer than average in the Great Lakes, 4.1 degrees warmer than average in Grand Rapids – so ice was slow to form on the Great Lakes during early winter. The pattern has turned colder in January and ice has been forming. The average temperature from January 1-23 was 3.5 degrees colder than average in Grand Rapids.
The Great Lakes as a whole now has a 21.9% ice extent. For the individual lakes, Lake Superior (the deepest lake and sometimes the lake with the least ice extent, despite the fact that it’s farther north) is at 13.8%. Lake Michigan has a 17.3% ice cover. Most of that is in Green Bay and between the Mackinac Bridge and Beaver Island. Lake Huron is at 33.8%. Lake Erie is at 34.4% and Lake Ontario at 18.3%. The lakes have had significant ice growth because temperatures have been well below freezing and winds have been relatively light.
Low temperatures Friday AM in the U.P. included -32 at Stonington, -28 at Randville, -24 at Iron Mt. It wasn’t as cold at Isle Royale National Park. The island was surrounded by open water the the low temp. was +2 at Windigo.
Most inland lakes are ice covered. A few of the deep lakes (like Torch Lake) still have some open water. Remember, you need 3-4″ of solid ice to be able to safely walk out on the lakes.
The water level of the Great Lakes as a whole continues to drop. Lake Superior is down 3″ in the last month (temps. have been below freezing, so snowfall remains as snow on the ground without melting and going into the rivers). Superior is down a full 11″ in the last year an is now (drum roll) four inches BELOW the average January level. It’s fallen 19 inches since the record high January level set two years ago.
Lake Michigan/Huron (one big lake for lake level purposes) is down 5″ in the last month (no significant rain events) and down (louder drum roll) 21″ in the last year. The level is still 10″ above the January average, but down a whopping 28″ since the January highest level set just two years ago. We’ve had 3 days this month with wind gusts of 40-50 mph and the reduced lake level has caused much less beach erosion and lakeshore flooding than would have occurred if the level was as high as it was two years ago.
Lake Erie is down 1″ in the last month and down 5″ in the last year. The lake is 20″ above the January average, but 13″ below the highest January level set in 1987. Lake Ontario is unchanged in the last month, up 11″ in the last month and is now 12″ above the January average. The Lake is 11″ lower than the highest January level reached in 1947.
Great Lakes river flow levels are mostly at or below average flow for late January. The Muskegon River at Croton has a flow of 1,630 cfs, compared to an average flow of 1,960 cfs. The Kalamazoo River at Comstock has a blow of 858 cfs, very closes to the average of 842 cfs. The St Joseph River at Niles has a flow of 3,600 cfs, compared to an average flow of 3,420 cfs. The Thornapple River at Hastings has a flow of 190 cfs, compared to an average flow of 253 cfs.
The Saginaw River at Saginaw has a flow of 2,730 cfs. Average flow is 3,600 cfs. The Fox River at Green Bay, Wisconsin has a flow of 2,490 cfs, compared to an average flow of 4,069 cfs.