It first arrived in late November and refuses to go away. It’s the ice on Lake Superior and there’s never been so much this late in the year, in 40 years of records.
“There’s still about 0.6 percent [ice cover] on Lake Superior, and that’s around Marquette and Keweenaw Bay,” said George Leshkevich, physical scientist at NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. “We haven’t seen this before, at least this far into June.”
Other years have had ice deep into the spring, but nothing to rival this year. For example, Leshkevich said fractional percentages of ice were observed on May 29 in 1996 and 2003;in 1979, 7.5 percent ice cover remained on the lake on May 14, but no data on how long it lasted.
There may have been ice this late sometime in the mid-to-late 1960s in the Apostle Islands area of Lake Superior, Leshkevich said, but the reports are anecdotal.
This year’s ice has been remarkable in all of its characteristics: duration, extent and thickness.
“We saw the ice as early as November 25 and now into June,” Leshkevich said. “In terms of duration I would think it’s up there, if not at the top of the chart [in the historic record].”
In early March this year, the Great Lakes ice extent reached 92.5%, the second most on record for any month, surpassed only by 94.7% in February 1979.
“It’s the first year since 1994 that Michigan, Superior, Huron and Erie reached 90 percent or more ice cover,” Leshkevich said.
In late March, Leshkevich said he observed “brutal conditions” on Lake Superior – with thick ice hampering ice breaking operations and causing damage to vessels. “Ice as thick as 42 inches was measured out in the lake in late March,” he said. “I haven’t ever seen conditions like this.”
The ice is now hanging on for dear life.
“It’s dissipating now and probably easier to melt out in the lake than when it was pushed against shore in higher concentration,” Leshkevich said. “Maybe by June 8-10 – it’s a wild guess – it will be gone.”