Great Lakes ice cover: Down 22% on average since 1973

Great Lakes ice coverage in decline due to warming winters

The winters are trending warmer in Michigan.
The winters are trending warmer in Michigan.

DETROIT – The winters are trending warmer in Michigan, and that means declining ice coverage on the Great Lakes.

The winters are trending warmer in Michigan, and that means declining ice coverage on the Great Lakes.

According to data from Climate Central, across all the Great Lakes the annual maximum ice cover is, on average, 22% lower than it was a half-century ago. Furthermore, ice coverage is becoming less reliable, with more frequent years of extremely low ice coverage.

According to Climate Central, the long term decline in lake ice cover is driven by warming air and water temperatures due to climate change.  The lake ice season is also contracting in many cases, with lakes now tending to freeze over later and thaw out sooner.  Based upon ice coverage charts from the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab in Ann Arbor, ice cover on the five Great Lakes peaked at an average of 47% this winter (with shallow Lake Erie skewing the numbers upward with its 80% ice coverage…the other four Great Lakes all peaked at or below 50% ice cover).  This compares to an average ice cover for all five lakes of 53% in the 1973-2020 time period.

More information: Great Lakes Ice Coverage is Shrinking


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About the Author:

Local 4 meteorologist Paul Gross was born in Detroit and has spent his entire life and career right here in southeast Michigan. Paul has researched, written and produced eight half-hour documentaries for WDIV, as well as many science, historical and environmental stories.