LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – January 14 is the midpoint of meteorological winter, and so far, the seasonal temperatures have been above average across most of the United States.
Over the last 50 years, winter temperatures have warmed by as much as 4.4 degrees in Lansing and nearly 4.7 degrees in Grand Rapids.
As a result, there are fewer days with temperatures below freezing, which has led to a lack of ice over the Great Lakes.
Since data collection began back in 1973, we have been aware that temperatures overall have been on the increase.
Specifically in the winter, which is considered the fastest-warming season for most of the United States.
The lakes not only tend to freeze later and thaw out sooner, but the ice that the lakes do generate is thinner as well.
Ice coverage can vary from year-to-year, but climate data shows that the warmer temperatures have caused ice coverage over the Great Lakes to decrease.
In fact, maximum ice coverage for all five lakes has decreased by as much as 22% in the past 50 years.
Normally, the new year starts off with an ice coverage percentage in the double digits.
For 2023, it’s well below average.
As of January 8th, the total ice coverage for Great Lakes sites are at 3.1%, with the most ice seen over Lake Erie. For comparison, back in 2018, the total ice coverage for the same date was 29.5%.
The lack of ice over the lakes can have many impacts.
In terms of weather, it means that we could see an increased chance for lake-effect snow for the rest of the winter season.
Normally, the lake effect will shut off when the lakes freeze over. But with no ice, or very little ice cover over the lakes, there is more moisture available to fuel any lake-effect systems.