Ice Record on Lake Michigan

March 4th, 2014 at 1:31 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

Great Lakes Ice   Lake Michigan iceLake Michigan winter jack martin drone  Lake Michigan winter jack martin drone.2 jpg Click on the images to enlarge. A week ago last Thursday we had wind gusts to 63 mph out on Lake Michigan.  If you look at the ice chart for Lake Michigan, you can see the the huge decrease from about 82% to 30% coverage as the wind broke up the ice.  Now, with several very cold nights with light winds, we’re back up to 90% coverage.  This is the most ice we have had on Lake Michigan since 1979 (after 3 cold, snowy winters in a row).  It’s also the most ice that we have ever had on Lake Michigan during the month of March.   I got a call and email from an engineer in Coeur d’alene, Idaho that found the blog and the articles on Great Lakes ice.  He looked at the data (GLERL, Coastwatch, National Snow and Ice Data Center, Environment Canada) and did some calculations and made a best guess on the volume of all the ice on the Great Lakes right now.  He said that all the ice on the Great Lakes would make a cube 19.9 miles high (3 1/2 times higher than Mt. Everest) and 19.9 miles wide (roughly the distance from John Ball Park to the Ionia Co. border).  Thanks to Michael Sloan for that data (in a nice spreadsheet).  From the left, the first image is Great Lakes ice cover, the 2nd image is Lake Michigan ice cover, both at 90% coverage (images from GLERL).  The other 2 pictures are from Jack Martin, who has a mini-helicopter that he uses to get some fantastic pictures.  These pics. are from Lake Michigan near Pier Cove.  You can see the great expanse of ice and the darker trees.  This is one time of year when it can be warmer in the forest than the surrounding areas.  The sun heats darker objects more than lighter-colored objects…so the darker forest will generate more heat than the snow covered sand dunes or farmland to the east.

32 Responses to “Ice Record on Lake Michigan”

  1. Jack says:

    Great Pics. Mr. Martin !!! The Mini Helcopter , Looks Like a Drone to Me BILL.

    1. Jack Martin says:

      Thank You Jack! Yes it is a drone or quadcopter. Here is some video of one of my flights. Enjoy!

  2. Jack says:

    BTW,,, FIRST!!

  3. Jack says:

    Talk of Another ” Cold War” , Reminded Me of This Old Elton John SONG. CUE,,, NIKITA ::::

  4. Dan (Byron Center) says:

    That is really impressive to see that amount of ice! It is historic and rare. The last time was 1979, WOW! I don’t recall that the winter of 1979 was that harsh. Awaiting our light clipper snow. Its still cold. What about 14 degrees outside?

  5. Dave Muskegon Heights says:

    Winter 1979 Included lots of cold and snow just like this year. I know was here just as Bill was and I do Remember his 68 hour shift during blizzard of 1978. Good job still love seeing you forecast the weather.

  6. DJ2450 (Central Gratiot) says:

    19.9 mi. cube! Now that’s one big ice cube.

    1. DJ2450 (Central Gratiot) says:

      If you’re having trouble grasping a 19.9 mile cube of ice try this.

      If the Great Lakes ice volume of all the ice currently on the Great Lakes were 1 mi. high by 1 mi. wide it would be 772 miles long. Enough ice to stretch from Grand Rapids to Boston with a little left over.

      1. Mark (East Lansing) says:

        Nothing short of incredible.

      2. BigCountry(Wyoming, MI) says:

        That would keep a lot of sprites cold!

    2. DJ2450 (Central Gratiot) says:

      Should have had my coffe first before I figured this out. Even more incredible. If the ice were 1 mi. high by 1 mi. wide it would actually be 7,880 miles long.

      1. Jim says:

        Okay, now figure out how many margaritas you could make. ;-)

        1. DJ2450 (Central Gratiot) says:

          About 127179030528000 per cubic mile if you like about 2 cubic inches of ice in your margarita.

        2. DJ2450 (Central Gratiot) says:


          one hundred twenty-seven trillion, one hundred seventy-nine billion, thirty million, five hundred twenty-eight thousand,

  7. Nathan (Forest Hills) says:

    Wow interesting facts Bill and Mr. Sloan! Maybe we will reach the record?

  8. Wswplz says:

    I won’t one of those helicopters / drone / remote control thingies….!

    1. Mark (East Lansing) says:

      Looks like one of these:

  9. Jack Martin says:

    Thanks Bill. Yes I have an amazing time flying these around. It allows me to capture Lake Michigan in so many ways and to see the views of Lake Michigan like I never have seen it before. There is lots of ice out there. Its going to look pretty cool when it all melts! Ready for Spring!

    1. BigCountry(Wyoming, MI) says:

      Jack, thanks for sharing all the great images you capture! There is definitely no shortage of targets in our beautiful state.

      1. Jack Martin says:

        Your welcome! I agree with you there. We have too much beauty in this state to go around for all!

    2. Mike L says:

      Which quad copter are you flying?

      1. Jack Martin says:

        This one is the Dji phantom first edition!

        1. Mike L says:

          Very nice, I’m torn between finally finishing assembly of my Arducopter and just buying a ready made quadcopter so I can start flying.

  10. Mike (Mattawan) says:

    We have been breaking records left and right all winter! This sure has been a crazy season!

  11. Susan (Holland) says:

    I’m impressed with how fast the ice cover re-formed on Lake Michigan after those windy days. I’m curious, though, why there are still areas of open water while the rest of the lake quickly regained ice cover. Any ideas?

  12. Mike L says:

    We have a pretty good warmup coming, have we now hit peak ice?

    1. Bill Steffen says:

      I’d probably say we’ll grow ice at least thru Friday AM and maybe into early next week. A strong wind would break up a lot of it, but it’ll take a long time to melt the ice ridges on the beaches.

  13. Paul (Yankee Springs-Barry State Game Area) says:

    Terry hinted at a possible storm next Tuesday’ish……any more info out there ?

    1. DJ2450 (Central Gratiot) says:

      It’s the European model hinting at a big system. Bill mentions it in the latest post.

  14. 126E says:

    Hi Bill, You made an interesting comment about the forest being warmer than surrounding at this time of year. I have about 40 years of soaring experience in Michigan and can verify that most years in the spring the forest produces the best thermal lift because the of the dark tree trunks absorbing the sun shine. Even more significant is the fact that the tree trunks are dry. This relationship generally persists until the trees leaf out in early may. cheers.

  15. bruce sabados says:

    Wow! So here is a question. Since March is looking cool, as in below average, and early reoorts are that April might also shape up this way, what really are the implications for melting our current snowpack? Really, what are the projections?

  16. Fredster says:

    Can anyone comment on the frost line depth in our state? I have had a couple of folks with up north places tell me their water lines are frozen in an area where their driveways are plowed….I think the frost line in most of MI is considered to be 42″ and you are supposed to go a foot below this. If that’s the case and their line is at 54″ and frozen that is over 4 feet of frost…is this possible?

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