Elizabeth Miller/ideastream

During the summer, Lake Erie’s western basin is full of boaters and tourists, especially near the islands that lie west of Cleveland. But come winter, the lake is empty, still, and sometimes frozen.

This is the drive behind Julia Christensen’s newest art project, Waiting for a Break.

U.S. Coast Guard District 9

The U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards have assisted over 300 ships this winter, one of the most demanding years for icebreaking. 

So far, the Great Lakes ice cover is more extensive than it has been in the last two years.  A big freeze hit the region right at the end of the shipping season, causing problems for several of the region’s biggest industries.

Matthew Richmond/ideastream

Over the past two winters, there wasn’t much ice cover on the Great Lakes. That changed with this month’s deep freeze.

Elizabeth Miller/ideastream

On the Great Lakes, boat and ship traffic is slowing down for the winter.  Meanwhile, in Cleveland, residents have a chance to watch Lake Erie change as ice builds up -- and breaks up.

Amy Nichole Harris/Shutterstock

Note: Updated on Dec. 6, based on lake surface temperatures in November, which significantly lowered predictions for the ice cover. --

Over the past two winters, the Great Lakes have had a below-average ice cover. And that’s expected to continue this year.