Will warm Great Lakes mean less ice this winter?

Nov 4, 2016

The Great Lakes are much warmer than usual, and that will be a factor in limiting ice formation this winter, the National Weather Service says in its "freeze-up outlook."

Large portions of the Great Lakes froze in 2014
Credit NASA

How warm is it? Here's a sampling of water temperatures at harbors around the region.

Buffalo: 60, normal 54

Cleveland: 62, normal 56

Chicago: 60, normal 53

Duluth: 52, normal 44

The weather service forecast considers many other factors, including the possibility of a La Nina system that would shift the jet stream's flow and limit ice formation.

It notes that water temperatures "could quickly return back to normal after the first cold air outbreak hits the region." Storms that bring high winds could speed up that process.

If temperatures stay mild, the outlook has a grim prediction: "Relatively low ice formation on the Great Lakes will lead to the potential for the combination of increased storm activity and significant lake effect snow accumulation during the cold air outbreaks."

Yikes.