GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As calendars turn to February, Great Lakes ice coverage is increasing right on cue.

Michigan’s Great Lakes peak ice coverage could be close to its long-term average, which is rare for any given year.

Only about 2% of the Great Lakes were covered in ice heading into January due to a warmer than usual December. 

On average, the maximum annual ice cover is 55% over the long-term. This year’s ice accumulation will remain well below average, but is forecasted to be near what is expected during an average winter.


As of Sunday, almost 41% of the Great Lakes surface is covered with ice as arctic temps linger through the region. 

Ice coverage for each lake:

  • Lake Superior: 34%
  • Lake Michigan: 24%
  • Lake Huron: 55%
  • Lake Erie: 82%
  • Lake Ontario: 29%

The Great Lakes usually sees its peak ice concentration in late February or early March. Most years are usually much higher than average or much lower than average. There have been big fluctuations in ice concentration in the last several years.

IMPACTS

While the area has experienced lake-effect snow this winter, the lack of ice cover could increase the potential for more lake-effect snow later in the season.

Lake-effect snow forms when very cold air passes over warm water. Less ice on the water means more surface area available to kick up the snow machine. 

— News 8’s Ellen Bacca contributed to this report.