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Ice coverage on Lake Superior is above average, lab says

Feb 26, 2019 06:20AM ● By Editor
Ice on Lake Superior helps protect the ecosystem from harsh winter weather, said Jia Wang of the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. Photo:  Nicole Ireland/CBC

From CBC News - February 26, 2019

More than three-quarters of Lake Superior is covered in ice right now, making this an above average winter for ice on the lake, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  

The yearly average is about 65 per cent, said Jia Wang, an ice climatologist at the lab. 

It isn't a new record however.

The lake completely froze over in 1996, and it reached 95 per cent ice cover six times in the past 60 years.

In fact, it's exceeded 80 per cent 25 of the past 60 years making this year's level of ice cover relatively common. 

Ice on the lake is between 30 and 70 centimetres deep around Thunder Bay but only 5 to 15 centimetres deep along the rest of the north shore, Wang said. 

"Some people say, 'Oh this year's cold, and we have a lot of ice cover in Lake Superior.  There's no global warming, no climate change," Wang told CBC. "But long term, [in] the Great Lakes, particularly Lake Superior, water temperature still increases ... so the water is warming up  regardless of this year's ice cover." 

Ice cover does help mitigate the effects of climate change, he said, by allowing less water to evaporate in the heat of the sun.

Ice also protects the ecosystem from the impacts of harsh winter weather.

"Of course you have disadvantages," Wang said. "Maybe the shipping season will be open later."

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