Great Lakes ice coverage during the first week of February, 2007-2016. Graphic: AccuWeather

By Brian Lada
8 February 2016

(AccuWeather) – The El Niño-influenced weather pattern over the past several months has brought above-normal temperatures in the Midwest and Northeast, causing the ice coverage on the Great Lakes to be significantly lower than it has been over the past two winters.

As of 2 February 2016, the total ice coverage on the Great Lakes was less than 6 percent, just a fraction of what it was at the start of February in 2014 and 2015, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL).

During the past two winters, early intrusions of arctic air paired with the persistence of below-normal temperatures caused ice to develop and to expand across large areas of the lakes by the middle of the winter.

However, the weather pattern during the first half of this winter has been significantly different, favoring temperatures near to above normal across the region. As a result, only a small amount of ice has been able to form on the Great Lakes.

"It was a warm November followed by an incredibly warm December and it has contributed to the lack of ice on the Great Lakes," AccuWeather Meteorologist Todd Miner said.

Miner added that the weather did turn colder in January, allowing ice to form on parts of the lakes finally. However, temperatures still ran near to above normal, preventing a rapid accumulation of ice. […]

The lack of ice on the Great Lakes this year has benefited industries around the region that rely on shipping to transport good and materials.

"The ice can hurt commerce and has affected the length of the shipping season on the Great Lakes," Miner said. "When Lake Erie is full of ice, they're not going to be sending any ships through there." [more]

Great Lakes nearly devoid of ice as El Nino-influenced warmth dominates early winter



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