Editorial: Ice covers most of Great Lakes

As of Friday 88.4 percent of the Great Lakes were under ice according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

Lake Huron was 94.7 percent covered in ice, Lake Michigan was 80 percent covered, Lake Superior was 95.3 percent covered, Lake Erie was 95.9 percent covered and Lake Ontario was lagging, at only 32 percent ice covered.

The highest recorded ice cover was in 1979, when the lakes were 94.7 percent covered in ice. Given this week’s weather across the Midwest and Northeast, the percentage of ice coverage should have increased as the week went on.

So, should this winter’s ice on the lakes translate into higher Great Lakes water levels this summer?

The short answer is yes. The longer answer is yes, BUT…

The results of a study released in January by the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center revealed that while ice cover does prevent water evaporation over the winter, and thus – results in higher water levels later in the summer, a reverse phenomenon occurs in autumn.

Scientists from Canada and the U.S. found evaporation in the autumn can impact the amount of the winter ice cap. Ultimately, each season seems to impact another in a cyclical pattern of water evaporation.

Now that so much of the Great Lakes are under ice, it will take much less time for the remaining open water to freeze over. We could be looking at record new levels of ice coverage before the month is over.

Regardless, the current level of ice coverage should delay water evaporation rates this spring way past when they normally would begin. That is expected to result in higher water levels this summer, although the water might be several degrees cooler.

If this winter’s long cold spell means higher water levels, we believe all of us can get through what remains of it.

Remember, spring is but 32 days away.