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Lake Superior Almost Iced Over; May Affect Summer Weather

Updated: 02/10/2014 8:40 PM
Created: 02/10/2014 5:06 PM WDIO.com
By: Laurie Stribling
lstribling@wdio.com

It's been a season full of winter blues. We had the third snowiest December on record, the third coldest winter on record and now this could be the first time since 1996 that Lake Superior freezes over.

"If you're going to be this cold, you might as well get something out of it like a record," visitor Sandy Friedland, who is originally from Duluth, said.

The last time Lake Superior became a full-blown ice rink was 1996, according to the National Weather Service.

It was reported that the lake was 93.5 percent frozen last Friday, but Monday the National Weather Service said it was 88.3 percent covered. They blamed weekend winds for the change.

"I haven't seen that much ice on it in a long time," visitor Gregg Whitney, who is originally from Duluth, said.

While it hasn't been declared frozen over yet, Great Lakes experts said it will happen this year.

"Oh, absolutely," Professor Jay Austin, with the Large Lakes Observatory, said.

Austin said all it will take is a few nights with no wind and he said the effects will stick around long after the ice melts.

"These high ice years tend to lead to relatively cool summers," Austin said. "So, the lake will stay cool. Duluth will stay cool through most of the summer which I guess is a good thing, but it is going to be tough swimming."

If you're a fan of the polar plunge, that's some good news. You can take the jump this weekend and all summer long, but the possible problems don't stop at swimming.

"What this means is that we're going to have much shorter period when the lake is very productive and lots of photosynthesis goes on," Austin said.

While Austin said the potential outcome is unclear, that photosynthesis helps make up the bottom of the food chain.

As of Monday, the National Weather Service said the Great Lakes combined are 78.2 percent covered in ice.

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