Skip to main content

Boreal Community Media

Great Lakes undergo incredible transformation in less than 1 month

Apr 03, 2019 06:43AM ● By Editor
A view of the Great Lakes three days after reaching peak ice coverage. Some ice had melted in those three days, but most of Lake Erie and Lake Superior remain covered in ice. (Image/NASA/MODIS/Aqua)

From accuweather.com - April 3, 2019

January's polar vortex ushered subzero temperatures across the Midwest and Northeast and was the tipping point that transformed the Great Lakes into a frozen icescape. However, the Great Lakes no longer resemble what they did just a few short weeks ago. 

Every winter, frigid Arctic air chills the northern United States, causing ice to form on the Great Lakes. The extent of this ice depends on several variables, including the frequency and duration of Arctic intrusions.

Old Man Winter held a tight grip across the region throughout much of this past winter, causing the ice coverage on the Great Lakes to reach levels not seen since 2015. 

Great Lakes March 12 2019

A view of the Great Lakes three days after reaching peak ice coverage. Some ice had melted in those three days, but most of Lake Erie and Lake Superior remain covered in ice. (Image/NASA/MODIS/Aqua)


A rapid freezing of the Great Lakes occurred during the record-breaking polar vortex in late January. The most dramatic change took place on Lake Erie where ice coverage spiked from near 20% to near 90% in just a matter of days.

Reinforcing shots of frigid air resulted in more and more ice to freeze-over the lakes, eventually reaching its peak on March 9, 2019.

At its peak, nearly 81% of the lakes were covered in ice, including nearly all of Lake Superior, Lake Huron and Lake Erie. This is significantly higher than the long-term average of 55%, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL).

It is also higher than peak ice coverage of 69% in 2018, and drastically higher than the peak ice coverage in 2017, which was 19.4%.

However, by April 1, the ice coverage had plummeted to a mere 15%

Water levels on the Great Lakes are running above average and with ice still covering parts of the lakes, the additional ice melt can cause the water levels to remain heightened into the summer.


For more on this story and to read related reporting, follow this link to AccuWeather.com.  https://m.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/great-lakes-undergo-incredible-transformation-in-less-than...

Upcoming Events Near You
Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here