Will Lake Michigan Freeze Over?

January 20th, 2009 at 5:09 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

Image showing Great Lakes ice coverage in 1979 This is a map of Great Lakes ice cover on Feb. 19, 1979. Satellite pictures can now give us a good idea of how much ice is on Lake Michigan, at least on those rare days when it’s clear. This is the MODIS satellite picture from Monday PM.  Before satellites we can only guess as to whether Lake Michigan was ever solidly frozen over.  Even in 1979, I had pilots tell me that they could always see some open water.  In an average year, the ice on Lake Michigan only reaches a maximum of about 40%.  Much of that is shoreline ice, plus Green Bay, Traverse Bay and the stretch from Beaver Is. to the Mac. Bridge.  1977 and 1994 also saw significant ice on Lake Michigan.  The maximum ice cover in On the other hand, 1998 was just shy of 15%.  Lake Erie is the Great Lake farthest south, yet it’s also the Great Lake that usually gets the highest percentage of ice cover.  That’s because Lakie Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes, with an average depth of 62 feet and a greatest depth of 210 feet.  Lake Michigan averages 279 feet deep, with a maximum depth of 925 feet.  Lake Erie is freezing up now.  When it does freeze up, you turn off the lake-effect snow from that lake, and you’d see a bit more sunshine.  Also, the cold Arctic air would see very little modification crossing a mostly frozen lake.  The cold nights with Arctic air and light winds will help create ice on the lakes.  There is a lot of shore ice now, it’s getting hard to see open water from the Michigan shore.  It’s only Jan. 20, so we may have four weeks to work toward maximum ice, which should bring us to one of the stellar years for Great Lakes ice if this weather pattern continues.

69 Responses to “Will Lake Michigan Freeze Over?”

  1. Larry of Hastings/Barry Co. says:

    Good morning Bill, I think we will see a good amount of ice.

  2. Bob P. :o) (ST.Johns) says:

    Lots of miles to go on Lake Michigan!

  3. Good morning, Bill!

    Do Coast Guard icebreaker records give any clues about Lake Michigan (and Great Lakes) ice before the satellite era?

  4. Slim Jim(nw GR) says:

    Well working on that ice cover here as I am now down to -6° (-5.7°) I know the airport is running warmer then I have been the last few nights (that’s after them being colder on for two night last week) maybe they got a “new” warmer thermometer?
    SlimJim

  5. Jimmy James says:

    Currently -6.3 degrees here in Jenison. We sure are burning a lot of wood this year!

  6. ball dont lie says:

    Still relatively warm in spots. http://www.coastwatch.msu.edu/twomichigans.html

  7. Jeff (Freeport) says:

    -15° here just north of Freeport.

  8. standstill says:

    I had -17 deg. on my car thermometer this morning (8AM), just north of Plainwell.

  9. Long Lake Gal says:

    It is -17.5 degrees here just 6 mile East of Belding. A cold morning! Already have trucks out on the lake bringing out the ice fishermen.

  10. michael g (SE GR) says:

    -2* here. One of the warmer places around apparently.

    GFS continues to show the chance for a snowstorm next week. I’m thinking that after next week we’ll be in a warmer pattern, with temps near to slightly above normal, but with more storminess.

  11. Craig (Holly St Park area) says:

    Beautiful weather down in DC…Speaking of something freezing over—I don’t think anyone imagined we’d see what is going to happen in 2 hours in our lifetimes!!! I am so proud to be an American this morning…no matter what side of the aisle you are on, you have to inspired by how far we have come in our race relations in such a short period of time!

  12. Slim Jim(nw GR) says:

    At 8:22 AM I set a new low temp for this winter at my house with a low of -6.9° so we will call that -7° lol.
    Yes Craig history will soon be made..lets hope we can all get together and get out of this mess we are now in. Its going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of luck.
    SlimJim

  13. Jevon Murphy (Dalton Township) says:

    Craig you are right about that!

  14. Jevon Murphy (Dalton Township) says:

    I got a low of -7.1 degrees with a dew point of -14 degrees! It has warmed up since then though!

  15. Craig (Holly St Park area) says:

    6 years ago yesterday, I stepped off a packed bus into DC, blue skies and 16F out, prepared to march for a peaceful resolution to our conflicts! It is surreal to see those same streets packed with 2 million folks full of hope! I am feeling that my voice I took down there 6 years ago is finally being HEARD and HONORED! I am INSPIRED!!!

  16. What?!? says:

    Craig – Why are you talking politics on a blog about Lake Michigan ice cover???

  17. Craig (Holly St Park area) says:

    What?!? – why are you so angry??? Last time I checked, we still live in a Democracy. Go ahead and smile, you’ll feel so much better!

    10*F here and full SUN!!! :-)

  18. BILL BOEVE says:

    WEATHER OBSERVATION 0845 20JAN09
    0.5 MI W OF BENTHEIM……………….-24 DEG !!! THAT’S 24 DEG. BELOW ZERO.
    That’s the coldest I’ve seen in the West MI area.

  19. dale says:

    I’m a republican by nature .It is very cold here in Mich. but what I just saw in washington made me feel VERY warm all over

  20. Craig (Holly St Park area) says:

    dale – I applaud you for setting aside the divisions and celebrating the potential for UNITY! Very touching day, indeed!!! Time for ALL of us to get to work – TOGETHER!

    :-)

  21. Bob P. :o) (ST.Johns) says:

    AMEN Brother!

  22. Bob P. :o) (ST.Johns) says:

    whole lot of snow in the midwest..especially up north

    http://www.johndee.com/snowcover/umicover.htm

  23. Bob P. :o) (ST.Johns) says:

    I see John Dee broke the 200″ mark for the season
    http://www.johndee.com/alcam.htm

  24. It was 9 degrees below zero here this morning. The airports all seemed warmer, so I was wondering if there was an issue with the thermometer here….or if we were just more clear here. But, after reading all those reports above, I am pretty sure it was right, after all!

  25. Craig (Holly St Park area) says:

    Bob P. – always the tease! :-)

  26. SteveW says:

    Here is an interesting story I found on CNN.com:
    http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/01/19/eco.globalwarmingsurvey/index.html

    I think its appropriate to post this link on this thread, seeing that L. MI. might freeze over!
    I don’t agree about what they say about climatologists and meterologists, and I think they have their conclusions confused.

  27. Steve says:

    Getting pop ups again, Bill. This is getting annoying. Someone at WOOD needs to clean this site up. Here’s the pop up address to confirm this…

    http://b.casalemedia.com/V2/44508/86956/index.html?www.woodtv.com/

  28. I don’t think Lake MI will freeze over. As much as I hate the cold, this sunshine is awesome, so let the ice build!!

    Steve, you’re not the only one having trouble with pop ups. LightingWatcher was telling me he had troubles too.

    I haven’t had a pop up on my computer in at least 5 months!

  29. Tim Walters (Holland) says:

    Our snowfall would drop significantly if it stays cold then. There would still be synoptic snows, but probably very little lake effect…Does that mean we can really only see so much significant snow if the lake froze over? And Bill, what does that do to the overall temperature of Lake Michigan for the next summer season? If the water didn’t warm up as much, our next winter would be less snowy right?

  30. Dirk Benedict says:

    Great post on the Lake Michigan ice cover Bill. By the way, we love the computer generated cartoon version of you that appears in those TV commercials for Empire Carpet.

  31. Brrrrr – I hope to get another night walk in or two before the next deep freeze. I did get out Sunday night!

  32. Jon says:

    My question is; I live by the GRF Int Airport and the temp has been 4-6 degrees colder than advertised in the morning the last week; is there lower altitude in that region?

  33. Slim Jim(nw GR) says:

    Looks like another cold night tonight as I am already down to +9° and with light winds and clear skies the temp should drop fast.
    SlimJim

  34. Tom says:

    Ok so we are heading for more ice on the big lakes but may I ask where is the January thaw that Bill promised was coming for the latter part of this month? I remember him talking about it, but haven’t heard a word about it now that the end of January is upon us!

  35. Ned S. (Tallmadge Twp.) says:

    I think the January thaw is giving us the slip. I currently show 6.3 degrees. This morning it bottomed out here at -11.4 degrees just before 8:00 a.m. My location is near Leonard and 14th Avenue.

  36. Craig (Holly St Park area) says:

    I’ve got 3F here at the moment…and dropping steadily.

  37. Michael E says:

    Latest 8-14 Day Outlook, shows warmer weather
    http://www.cpc.noaa.gov/products/predictions/814day/

  38. Slim Jim(nw GR) says:

    Down to +4° here colder then last night at this time!
    SlimJim

  39. Barb says:

    I’m glad to see the ice cover to bring the water levels up after dry years and low levels.

  40. Sherry (Comstock Park) says:

    I have +6 at this time.

  41. Fred Cedar Springs says:

    It sure was a nice day. Tomorrow will be better. Right now we are are minus 3. We have been below 0,each night, for so long I wonder what it will be like to get up to freezing. mmmmm.

  42. Michael D says:

    It is quite cool tonight. But with the lack of clouds, I did get to see quite a bright “shooting star” to the north.

  43. Sarah (in Martin) says:

    Im daydreaming of dirty feet, watermelon, frog hunting, tree climbing, thunderstorms, tulips, lilies and opening my windows to let this house air out.

  44. Hey Fred, you must be in a low spot, it’s +3.2F at my place! Ever been up around Fisk Knob Park?

    Oh Sarah that sounds simply wonderful!!

  45. Tim Walters (Holland) says:

    Haha, wind chill advisory for Miami, Fla. for factors between 25-35*F That’s 50 or 60 degrees warmer than wind chill adv. criteria around here.

    A WIND CHILL ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 9 AM EST WEDNESDAY.

    THE COLDEST AIRMASS OF THIS WINTER SEASON SO FAR WILL SPREAD
    SOUTHWARD ACROSS MAINLAND SOUTH FLORIDA TONIGHT. TEMPERATURES
    CAN BE EXPECTED TO FALL INTO THE 30S OVER MUCH OF INTERIOR SOUTH
    FLORIDA AND THE PALM BEACH METRO AREAS…TO AROUND 40 IN COASTAL
    COLLIER COUNTY. WHEN COUPLED WITH NORTHERLY WINDS IN THE 5 TO 10
    MPH RANGE…THESE TEMPERATURES WILL RESULT IN WIND CHILL VALUES
    BETWEEN 25 AND 35 DEGREES FOR SEVERAL CONSECUTIVE HOURS OVER MOST
    OF MAINLAND SOUTH FLORIDA FROM LATE THIS EVENING UNTIL A FEW HOURS
    AFTER SUNRISE WEDNESDAY

  46. Bob P. :o) (ST.Johns) says:

    and speaking of lake ice 1989…day in history from Gaylord
    ON JANUARY 21ST IN MICHIGAN WEATHER HISTORY…IN 1989…IT WAS A BAD DAY FOR ICE FISHING. OR MAYBE IT WAS A GREAT DAY FOR FISHING…AS THE FISH WERE BITING…WHICH LED TO MANY FISHERMEN CHECKING THEIR COMMON SENSE AT THE SHANTY DOOR. ON SAGINAW BAY…18 FISHERMAN WERE RESCUED FROM DRIFTING ICE FLOW. BETWEEN SAGINAW BAY AND HOUGHTON LAKE…ABOUT ONE DOZEN VEHICLES FELL THROUGH THE ICE.

  47. Slim Jim(nw GR) says:

    Well its a “heat” wave I now am up to +20° here at my house. Also had a little snow over night! Can spring be far behind?
    SlimJim

  48. direfloyd (Dexter, SE Mich) says:

    It hit -8 here in Ann Arbor last night… still cold! It is up to 7 already this morning.

  49. Ed says:

    Hi Bill:
    Last night at just about 7PM, Seamus and I were headed home on Plainfield Ave coming down the hill toward the E. Beltline and we saw a white light fall from the sky to the NE of where we were. Any ideas on that?
    thanks
    e

Leave a Reply