First Alert Weather In-Depth: You need cold for ice

Weather In-Depth

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – No doubt we have experienced some cold periods this winter season, but that is counter to the overall data for December, January, and February as temperatures are well above normal on a month by month bases for Rochester. This milder weather has a direct impact on the ice coverage on the Great Lakes.

Monday the ice coverage on the entire great lakes system is only at four percent. That is very low number for this time of the year. You can even see this when looking directly at Lake Ontario on Monday. On the shoreline near Webster it is all water as far as the eye can see. Typically, in an average season, you would not be able to see any water because of the amount of ice formation. Another vantage point is to the west of Rochester near Kent, New York which is in Orleans county. At the Oak Orchard Lighthouse there is some small amounts of ice in the bay, but it is much less ice than usual. All this antidotal evidence corresponds with the latest ice coverage chart for Lake Ontario. At this point of the season, the average is usually near 20 percent, but now the amount of ice is next to nothing.

And the longer term is even more concerning. Going back to 1973 there is a noticeable downward trend across the entire great lakes system. It is fair to say there is a greater variability for ice coverage from year to year, but if you smooth the data for the 50 year time period, the amount of ice coverage has, on average, decreased by approximately 25 percent. As a result, most people in the scientific community are saying we are experiencing warmer winters and that climate change is a contributing factor for this lack of ice on the Great Lakes.