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Great Lakes Break Record for Least Ice Cover in History

The Great Lakes have just set the record for least ice cover in recorded history for January 21st, which dates back to 1973. The basin-wide average for Great Lakes ice cover stood at 2.4% as of yesterday’s analysis. The previous record was 5.2% in 1995, with the average for the date of 23.5%.

Here's a look at the current ice cover extent by lake:

The lack of ice cover has several benefits, but also a few drawbacks. On one hand, barges can continue to travel across the lakes to transport goods which helps the economy. Ice cover also helps protect shorelines from erosion and can aid in the killing off of invasive species. However, some marine life relies on the ice for nesting and laying eggs.

Ice cover (or the lack thereof) on the Great Lakes of course impacts the weather as well. When the Great Lakes remain unfrozen, the moisture from the relatively water is available to cold air masses that pass over them, eventually resulting in the development of lake effect snowfall downwind. On the other hand, when the Great Lakes are frozen, moisture is not available and the ice aids in keeping air temperatures cooler.

Long range forecasts favor near to above normal temperatures persisting across much of the United States through the end of winter, so a significant increase in ice cover is not expected. Look for the lake effect snow machine to continue through the next couple months.

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