Most of the United States is gearing up for the fast approaching summer months, traces of the icy winter far behind them, but the Great Lakes are just thawing out after a record-breaking seven months of being frozen.
The NOAA declared all the Great Lakes officially ice-free Wednesday morning after more than 80 percent of its surface was encrusted with ice for seven months – an occurrence that hasn’t happened since the 1970s, according to Live Science.
Lake Superior, the deepest, largest and northernmost of the five Great Lakes (31,700 square miles), was the last to thaw out its ice cubes. At one point in March, all of the lakes combined were approximately 91 percent covered in ice – the most ice since a record 94.7 percent was set in 1979, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL).
“Normally the ice is mostly gone by end of April with some bays having some ice chunks floating around,” commented Amie Egstad of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
NASA’s Aqua satellite was able to capture stunning images of the icy wonderland through its Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS).
Temperatures in these waters have been warming over the past 30 to 40 years and ice cover has generally been shrinking, but this particularly frigid winter chilled the Great Lake temperatures about 1 or 2 degrees Fahrenheit (0.5 or 1 Celsius) below their long-term average. Scientists with the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center (GLISA) forecast that surface temperatures over the deepest parts of the lake will still be in the 40s F (about 4 C), by August.
NOAA-GLERL scientists are observing long-term changes in ice cover as a result of global warming.
“Studying, monitoring, and predicting ice coverage on the Great Lakes plays an important role in determining climate patterns, lake water levels, water movement patterns, water temperature structure, and spring plankton blooms,” according to their website.
And though inhabitants near the Great Lakes region may be heaving a sigh of relief, the long-lived ice cover may unfortunately bring some complicated weather to the area soon.
According to the Science Recorder, with the icebergs melted, higher water levels and considerable fog are to be expected, as water and surface temperatures continue to shift and remain consistently at odds, making evaporation difficult.
“It’s going to be the summer of fog,” Peter Blanken of the University of Colorado said in a statement obtained by Live Science.