Lake Michigan’s ice coverage may be approaching its peak as the lake’s water level continues to fall.

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Lake Michigan’s water level is expected to be well below the series of monthly highs reached a few years ago, so ice coverage will peak across the Great Lakes during the season, which tends to be closer to average than originally predicted. It may be.

Lake Michigan’s ice coverage reached 37% last week, the highest this season, according to data from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Institute, which records and models. Range of ice..

Ice coverage increased in the New Year as cold temperatures frozen the Great Lakes region. According to data dating back to 1973, lakes have recently covered about a quarter to more than 40%, approaching the long-term average of early February.

Lake Superior coverage Lake Erie is almost entirely covered, while Lake Erie is almost below average.

On Lake Michigan, ice appeared in the form of pancakes, balls, and in some northern fishing spots, chunks thicker than a foot. Coverage in February was as low as 13% and has recently expanded to more than one-third of the surface.

James Kessler, a physical scientist at the Great Lakes Environmental Institute at NOAA, said: “There is still time to reach the higher ice cover.”

But whether it’s ice Open waterForecasters continue to call attention near the lakeside. lake Without noticing that he is on the ice.

The final experimental forecast from NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Institute was updated throughout the season, predicting an overall coverage of nearly 49% across the Great Lakes. This was a jump from previous estimates of near-record low coverage, after considering sub-zero temperatures and large-scale climate variability changes. Recently, coverage has reached almost 50%. The long-term average annual maximum ice coverage is about 54%. Maximum coverage usually arrives after mid-February.

The ice cover is very variable. Lake Michigan covered 93% of its surface in 2014, but reached a minimum of 12% in 2002. but, Human behaviorCombustion of fossil fuels, mainly fossil fuels, promotes higher temperatures, fewer days are covered with ice, and coverage is decreasing by about 5% every 10 years. Lake Michigan’s decline is less severe, but Lake Superior is the fastest-declining of the warmest lakes on the planet.

Poor coverage is useful for commercial transportation. It also fuels lake-effect snow and can pose challenges for fish spawning, winter recreation, and erosion of coastlines that are already vulnerable to storms.

But one of the things that the collapsing coasts are unlikely to need to deal with in the coming months is the record high water levels that Lake Michigan reached just a few years ago.

The US Army Corps of Engineers’ latest six-month forecast predicts that Lake Michigan will continue to decline from these highs, approaching historical averages since 1918, ahead of seasonal rises.

The monthly average for Lake Michigan, measured with Lake Huron, was about 11 inches above the long-term average, but 26 inches below the monthly record set in January 2020.

Deanna Apps, a physical scientist in the Army Corps of Engineers, said:

Evaporation is the main driving force for fluctuating lake water levels, along with precipitation and runoff. An ice cover with the ability to prevent evaporation is effective in winter.

According to Apps, the entire Great Lakes region was fairly dry in the first half of 2021 and volatile in the second half. This year’s dry start in the region, coupled with cold temperatures and relatively warm water, has resulted in considerable evaporation.

From December to January, Lake Michigan decreased by about 4 inches. The Army Corps reports that Lake Michigan and the Huron Basin have less than an inch of precipitation in January, well below average.

“Water levels can rise and fall as weather conditions change. It’s best to prepare for both high and low water levels,” the app says. High water.. “

In 2020, lakeside floods and erosion became commonplace, leaving Lake Michigan very high even in winter, setting a new monthly record for January. The highs followed the record lows set in January 2013.

Scientists are studying that in the face of climate change, the sway between the two extremes can be more pronounced and can occur faster.

The drop from record heights to average levels on Lake Michigan is noticeable, but what’s happening on Lake Superior is particularly striking, says Drew Gronewold, a hydrologist and associate professor at the University of Michigan. rice field.

Lake Superior has fallen sharply, with the January average about 3 inches below the long-term average and 1 foot below last year’s level, approaching the lowest seen about 10 years ago. In 2020, the lake set a monthly record in January and February.

“I definitely see this as part of this pattern of change,” Gronewold said.

Scientists monitor the next seasonal cycle to see if the decline continues. Or, as Gronewold said, “a lot of rainfall will occur six or twelve months from now, and it will become a blip.”

The report found that most of the Great Lakes will not approach record heights in the next six months.

© 2022 Chicago Tribune.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Lake Michigan’s ice coverage may be approaching its peak as the lake’s water level continues to fall.

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