Great Lakes Covered In Less Ice Due To Warmer Temperatures

by | Jan 4, 2024 | Climate Crisis, Environmental News

Home » Environmental News » Great Lakes Covered In Less Ice Due To Warmer Temperatures

The phenomenon of the Great Lakes covered in less ice this year is highlighted by the fact that on New Year’s Day, only 0.35% of the Great Lakes were ice-covered, a significant drop from the nearly 10% historical average for this period.

The trend of diminishing ice cover aligns with broader climatic changes impacting the US, from reduced snowpacks in the West to snow drought in the Northeast. Researchers note a consistent decrease in ice coverage on the Great Lakes, dropping approximately 5% each decade since records began in 1973. This observation is part of a larger pattern of Great Lakes covered in less ice, reflecting the ongoing effects of global warming on these significant bodies of water.

James Kessler, a physical scientist at NOAA’s GLERL, highlights the critical role of air temperature in ice formation. The region has experienced above-average air temperatures, lacking the consistent below-freezing days necessary for ice development. December temperatures around the Great Lakes soared 8 to 12 degrees Fahrenheit above normal, with several cities recording their warmest December ever.

Great lake covered in less ice

The eastern side of the lakes mirrored this warmth, leading to a completely ice-free Lake Erie. In particular, Lake Erie and Lake Superior have seen the most significant declines in ice coverage. Studies have identified Lake Superior as one of the fastest-warming lakes globally, primarily due to climate change.

While it’s still early in the season, and a prolonged cold snap could alter current conditions, peak ice typically occurs in late February or early March. Kessler cautions that, despite yearly variability, the long-term trend points to less ice cover in the future.

This change has substantial implications for both the environment and industry. Reduced ice could extend the shipping season, benefiting the multi-billion-dollar commercial shipping industry on the Great Lakes. However, low ice levels also have negative impacts, including increased flooding and erosion risks and more severe lake-effect snowstorms, as seen in Buffalo, New York, in 2022.

This winter season, marked by a strong El Niño, is exacerbating the challenges in ice formation on the Great Lakes. El Niño, a climatic phenomenon, typically leads to warmer temperatures in the region. These increased temperatures significantly reduce ice coverage, continuing a trend observed over recent decades. As the warmer weather persists, it’s expected that the Great Lakes will maintain minimal ice cover, highlighting the profound and continuing impact of climate change on these significant freshwater bodies.

The Great Lakes, integral to North America’s ecology and economy, witnessed this change firsthand. Reduced ice cover affects the ecological balance of the lakes and has wider implications, such as impacting local weather patterns and potentially altering regional climate systems. This year’s conditions serve as a stark reminder of the tangible consequences of global warming. The situation underscores the urgency for climate action and adaptation strategies to mitigate the long-term effects on these crucial ecosystems. As the winter progresses, monitoring and understanding these changes will be vital in addressing the broader implications of a warming planet on our natural resources.

Also Read: UK Experienced The Warmest Year On Record In 2023: Met Office


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