Skip to main content

Boreal Community Media

Ice already forming on Great Lakes, but water temps prime for heavy lake effect

Dec 05, 2019 05:33AM ● By Editor
Image:  NOAA

By 
Mark Torregrossa of mlive.com - December 5, 2019


There is ice starting to form along the Great Lakes shorelines. At the same time, even though ice is forming, the surface water on the Great Lakes are prime for heavy lake effect snow next week.

Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron and Ontario have small amounts of ice forming at spots along the shoreline.

Great Lakes ice

Great Lakes ice coverage and surface water temperatures on December 3, 2019. (NOAA)


The ice amounts are very tiny, but forming. Lake Superior has eight-tenths of a percent of ice coverage. Lake Huron and Lake Ontario have 0.15 percent of ice coverage. Lake Michigan has a tiny 0.02 percent covered in ice.

Outside of the small ice areas, surface water temperatures are still well above the freezing mark.

Lake Erie is the warmest with surface water somewhere between 45 degrees and 49 degrees. Lake Michigan is still between 43 degrees and 46 degrees. Lake Huron is listed as 41 degrees to 43 degrees. Finally Lake Superior has surface waters mostly between 38 degrees and 42 degrees.

great lakes water temps

Great Lakes water temperatures  Charts:  NOAA

These water temperatures will play a big role in heavy lake effect snow next week. We look for heavy lake effect potential with a temperature difference of 40 degrees between the surface water and the air at 5,000 feet up. In the case of the coldest days next week, a temperature difference of 60 degrees will be likely. This temperature contrast could help fuel very heavy lake effect snow.

Upcoming Events Near You
Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here