Ice cap coming for Lake Erie

Great Lakes ice cover was 92.5% on March 6, 2014. (Photo courtesy of NOAA Great Lakes CoastWatch and NASA)

Residents living along the Lake Erie shoreline can breathe a sigh of relief this winter.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a U.S. government scientific agency, is predicting that ice cover on Lake Erie this winter is expected to be a maximum of 80 per cent, which is the highest projection for all of the five Great Lakes. The NOAA said maximum ice cover on the lower lakes, such as Lake Erie, normally occurs between mid-February and the end of February and Lake Erie has the highest ice cover because it is shallow.

Preliminary findings released in a January 2, 2020 report from the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory showed ice cover on Lake Huron should be up to 66 per cent this winter, Lake Superior 54 per cent, Lake Michigan 41 per cent, and Lake Ontario with the lowest level of ice cover at 32 per cent because of its depth.

The ice will replace splashing waves along the shoreline caused by strong wind, meaning that properties along Lake Erie will get a break from erosion, damage, and flooding caused by pounding waves and record-high water levels in 2019.

The NOAA said as of January 1, 2020, the total Great Lakes ice cover is 1.3 per cent, which is about two thirds less than around this time last year, and barely anything compared to early 2018, when the ice covering the Great Lakes was already almost 20 per cent overall. NOAA predicts the total maximum Great Lakes’ ice cover this winter to be around 47 per cent, well below the long-term average of 55.7 per cent. The highest Great Lakes ice coverage on record is 94.7 per cent in 1979 and the lowest is 9.5 per cent in 2002.