Ice on lakes thinner than usual, with potential for some melting ahead

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This time in 2022, Lake Superior was roughly 25% covered in ice. Now, it is at six percent

“Generally, ice is pretty unpredictable, especially in the Great Lakes,” said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Adam Weber. “Normally it’s frozen out there. This year, it’s not. With the warm up, it’s going to be a little bit more deteriorated.”

With afternoon highs in the upper 30s and even low 40s ahead, some of the ice on Lake Superior, as well as inland lakes, could melt.

“You can have some open holes that weren’t there the day before, the week before,” said Weber. “So it’s very unpredictable. It might go faster than it normally does.”

Marine General Owner Russ Francisco has had customers come to the store for summer items, such as ordering equipment for their boats. 

“That is sort of unheard of for February,” Francisco said. “Yesterday, there was a boat on the lake near the store. So it’s been a very off year with the temperatures.”

Snow melting on land may cause an issue for ice on lakes. 

“We’ve had a lot of slush and we’ve had a lot of snow and running water and roads, ice. And that’s what we’re worried about, just erosion of the ice basically,” said Francisco.

Measuring ice thickness is necessary before bringing equipment or a vehicle onto a lake. 

“The thickness we measure is that ice on the bottom that’s actual really ice, not frozen slush,” Francisco explained. “Right now around here, there are some lakes that have some pretty thick ice, but a lot of them are only eight, 12 inches. It’s pretty minimal for this time of year.”

Wearing ice picks and a lifejacket as well as being prepared in case of an emergency is recommended. 

“You never want to go out by yourself. You want to always tell someone kind of where you’re going, what your plan is about, when you’re going to come back,” said Weber. “Always travel with a buddy.Have someone else there with you just in case the worst does happen.”

A graph showing the current ice coverage compared to normal can be found on the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory website.