Latest Lake Superior Ice Cover Imagery

February 12th, 2014 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

Yesterday’s NASA MODIS imagery from the Terra and Aqua satellites revealed relatively cloud free conditions over Lake Superior, which is unusual since the cold air sitting over the relatively warmer ice and water causes almost continuous cloud formation. Here’s the Aqua MODIS true-color image, which I’ve enhanced somewhat (click for large version):
The MODIS “721” color enhancement product does a better job of distinguishing between clouds and ice (click for large version):
Note that it is difficult to distinguish between open water and new ice formed during low wind conditions, which is relatively clear.

GLERL’s model analysis suggests about 94.3% ice coverage of Lake Superior today, and some lake watchers are forecasting complete coverage in the near future.

48 Responses to “Latest Lake Superior Ice Cover Imagery”

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  1. fonzie says:

    Dr. Spencer, thank you always for giving us this window (your blog that is…) into your fascinating profession!

  2. Jake says:

    I believe that last time Superior completely froze over was 1997.

  3. Hot Potato says:

    Thanks for that update, Roy. All this cold and freezing is obviously anthropogenic. Everything these days is an example of AGW. For example, my favorite socks now have a hole in them and I blame AGW. It’s a convenient scapegoat.

    The implicit message in public schools is that the science is settled and the climate and weather is now the result of human activity. As I’ve mentioned, I reside in the Atlanta area and I can’t tell you how grateful my children are for AGW since they’re on track to set a record for most snow days ever. AGW Root Beer’s got that frosty mug taste.

    That satellite image is so clear, I swear if you look close enough you can almost see the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald gloomily nestled in its grave at the soft sedimentary lake bottom. What a great lake Superior is. I like the name the Ojibwe gave it; Gichigami.

  4. BMan says:

    And in the category of silver linings, I would think this cuts way down on lake-effect snow in the air shed — since non-convecting crystalline ice should deposit less vapor in the passing air than would convecting liquid water.

  5. Brian D says:

    I live near Duluth, so yeah, this means a cold spring and a possibly cooler summer around here. Lake temps stay colder after these high ice winters. Snow coming in tomorrow will show the coverage better on the next clear day.

    Second half of Feb should be more average now and more snow chances. Man, it has been a long stretch of cold up here. Average temps means shorts LOL! 30 degree weather does feel real warm after what we have been through.

    Don’t think winter is going to give up so easily this year though, and April is gonna be a wet, cold one.

  6. OssQss says:

    So has anyone ever walked the center length of the lake?

  7. Thanks Dr. Spencer for the fantastic photographs.
    Are the Aqua MODIS true-color images available to the public?

    It does not seem self-evident, or intuitive that that all this cold is the result of ongoing global warming.
    Some epicycles are required for that, and in comes the IPCC and acolytes to supply them!
    All the global temperature data bases are recording a hiatus in the warming, but who cares about data when we have models?

    • fonzie says:

      All except one… Dr. Spencer’s. Isn’t that ironic?

      • How so?
        Follow the red curve which is the running, centered 13-month average.
        There has been an average anomaly of about +0.2° C since 2002.
        The temperature trend for UAH NSSTC lower tropospheric global mean from 2002 to 2013.93 was 0.10°C per century.
        I don’t think 0.10°C per century is different from no change.

        The HadCRUT3gl trend from 2001 to 2013.84 is -0.41°C (-0.74°F) per century.
        The HadCRUT4gl trend from 2002 to 2013.84 is -0.37°C (-0.66°F) per century.
        Both trends are about 4 times greater than UAH’s.

        • fonzie says:

          I was referring to the 5 year running average in dr. spencer’s last post…

          • fonzie says:

            Andres, more specifically, the hiatus is said to have lasted fifteen years; the five year average at 2013 is higher than the five year average at 2008 which is higher than that at 2003. Those three groups of five years comprise the entire fifteen year hiatus…

          • mac says:

            This is a good point which needs to be addressed.

  8. aaron says:

    I’m currious about what the land looks like north of the lake. How much snow and ice is there above the lake?

  9. aaron says:

    I’m in lower michigan. My cat seems to have started shedding. I’m taking that as a sign that the weather is about to improve. Screw the groundhog.

  10. stevek says:

    Does rain and the water cycle mitigate heat from increasing surface temperatures ? ( negative feedback ).

  11. stevek says:

    Another question about water cycle. When I was young lad I would often spend time at my grandparents cottage during the summer.

    The had a sauna ( wood burning ). It was called a steambath to us.

    We would go in and throw water on the hot rocks and it released a huge amount of hot steam. Hot enough that you had to hold your breath or the air would burn your throat.

    The water cooled the hot rocks quickly, and the steam rose up to top of the sauna. This water cycle transferred heat from rocks upwards. Without the water the rocks would retain heat for a long time. There were two rows of benches in sauna, one lower and one higher. Thr one higher row was where steam was strongest.

    My understanding from this basic experience is more rain means more heat transfer to upper atmosphere.

  12. The following is from a link provided by Bob G (thanks, Bob) on the previous thread that may have been overlooked but needs to be underscored and gored.

    Despite an overwhelming consensus among climate scientists that warming trends over the past century are most likely the result of human activities, some claim that a plateau in global surface air temperatures since 2001 is evidence to the contrary. However, a new study suggests the recent stabilization of air temperatures is a result of abnormally strong east to west trade winds, causing warmth to be stored temporarily beneath the western Pacific ocean.

    With the pause in “warming,” the CAGW consensus cult is scrambling to find the heat, and their flaky imaginations conjure one convenient conjecture after another to tell us the heat is there even though we can’t see it, feel it…or most importantly, measure it. This famous commercial comes to mind:

    Where’s The Heat??…indeed.

    • fonzie says:

      They’re looking in the wrong place. The missing heat is hiding in Dr. Spencer’s data set…

    • Hops says:

      Actually, if you look at the LT data set to which Dr. Spencer provides links each month, the anomaly for the North Pole in January was 1.34C, which takes the bronze metal for January anomalies. The gold and silver belong to 2011 and 2010.

      The last significant January anomaly that was negative was back in 2000.

      • Norman says:


        You forgot 1981 that was the actual bronze at 1.39. 2014 came in 4th. Because you directed the flow to the long term trend at the North Pole it does point out one clear item. It is hard to push the “panic button” at this time and it also demonstrates the distortion of climate science to start to link all the cold and ice to global warming since the north pole (while it has warmed) is not at an alarming level.

    • Hops says:

      Can’t measure it? Actually, the rise in mean sea level is a pretty good indicator of the combined effect of (1) thermal expansion, and (2) ice loss.

      • JohnKl says:

        Hi Hops,

        Which ADJUSTED measurement of mean sea level do you refer to?

        Have a great day!

        • Hops says:

          Whip me. So now the oceanographers are part of the vast left-wing conspiracy…?

        • fonzie says:

          John, I see “bparsons” is back… (A little late to the party on the last post there)

        • Hops says:

          Can’t trust the Climatologists, can’t trust the Biologists, can’t trust the Ecologists, can’t trust the Geologists, and can’t trust the Economists. Who can you trust? Ah, I’ve got it: the Creationists!

          • Ritchie Cunningham says:

            BINGO, HOPS!!! Don’t trust anybody…

          • JohnKl says:

            Hi Hops,

            Not too long someone identified as “nullius in verba” in previous threads on this website. As to trusting people, please view the world we reside in. Why would any sentient person do that without some reason? Let’s just say for the sake of everyone’s sanity, especially your own, you just may want to know to the extent feasible the source of any claims you make.

            Have a great day!

          • Threepwood says:

            You’re getting there, the point of science is NOT having to take somebody’s word for it- no matter the academic authority-

            trust the science not the scientists- Sure, Lemaitre was considered a crazy ‘creationist’ by atheist academia. But that doesn’t mean you have to trust all creationists! look at the evidence for yourself…

  13. Tom Dwidel says:

    Meanwhile further north, Arctic Sea Ice Extent is flirting with a record low again for this time of year. Several data sets already show a record low and it is extremely warm in the arctic right now (well relatively speaking!).

    So much for the “rebound” in ice widely publicized last summer.

    • Jake says:

      Am I missing something? I’m looking at these graphs and there seems to be a lot of back and forth over the last six months, and in fact January levels were greater than what was observed the past couple of years. It’s only over the past week that the graphs met up, yes?

      Any rebound to levels we have observed in the past three decades will require some time, I would think. Although, we are at a point where global temperatures are at a plateau but higher than normal, so melt would be expected.

      Ice level change seems to match temperature measurements. That ultimately doesn’t answer the questions as to whether this temperature increase is natural or induced by modern human life. In all probability, a little of both. And, seemingly, nothing close to what has been predicted by most models. In fact, not even close.

    • Hops says:

      I don’t like extent as a metric — it varies too much with wind and storms. We really need to consider volume, and even that over longer time spans than a year. But the trend is pretty clear.

      • Bill Sparling says:

        OK, lets consider ice volume. Verified measurements of the permanent arctic sea ice indicate increase in area and thickness – hence VOLUME. Review the data from the scientists actually studying the arctic rather than those cherry picking from a few land based locations.

    • Norman says:

      Tom Dwidel,

      Here is something to consider.

      Changing ocean currents may be the culprit to ice melt and now they may be changing back but there is a long delay before the effects are seen.

      As to your term “extremely warm” not sure if I agree.

      This page has a calendar of temps of February from Yellowknife, Canada and at least this part of central north Canada does not indicate any extremely warm temps. Alaska has cooled down considerably the last few days so they are not so warm now.

      This one is of Russia and it still looks fairly cold.

    • Bill Sparling says:

      Yet, if you were to look at the real data, not the massaged data sets put out by the alarmist community, you would find the opposite. Try reviewing the RADARSAT2 measurements of the permanent ice pack in the Arctic. NRCan is the only agency doing these measurements in real time, AND taking physical measurements on the ice itself. The ice pack is GROWING.

  14. Fonzie said: They’re looking in the wrong place. The missing heat is hiding in Dr. Spencer’s data set…

    I suspect, with enough applied creative imagination, we could find any number of things in “Roy’s” data set…a rabbit, perhaps, or lions, tigers and bears. And therein lays the rub and why none of this will be resolved professionally and respectfully. So long as, even within the confines and hallowed halls of science, data can be whatever one shapes it to be, arguments over that shaping will continue even long past the time common sense reveals the bevy of climate models that historically supported CAGW are absurd on their face regardless of desperate attempts to adjust them to what’s obvious to the untrained, unscientific mind.

    I was watching True Detective (great show, by the way) the other night and during the course of being questioned by colleagues of his former profession, Rust Cohle (played brilliantly by Matthew McConaughey) takes his pocket knife out while waxing philosophical, and fashions a person from a beer can. Those who find all the warming predicted by the myriad CAGW climate models in “Roy’s” data set are effectively doing the same thing and that’s yet one more reason I say it’s all lies.

    Are we sure the warming’s not in one of the pockets of your leather jacket, fonzie? What about Obama’s golf bag? Anyone check there? How about Al Gore’s closet beneath all those skeletons? Maybe if we put Rust Cohle on the case, we’ll find the serial killer warming that promises to bring humanity to its knees? We need a True Detective.

    • Ritchie Cunningham says:

      Cold N. Holyfield (formerly hot potato), Fonzie was just making a funny there… Isn’t it ironic that after all these years of calling the good doctor a denier that his is the only data set that shows even a hint of warming? As well, the ipcc is now whistling his tune when it comes to “climate sensitivity”…

      P.S. Fonz would have told you this himself, but he’s out jumping sharks…

  15. Norman says:

    Cold N. Holyfield,

    Good post. I am watching True Dectective as well. We do need scientists to be what they are supposed to be (but that may not put food on the table or pay a mortage), relentless in the pursuit of the Truth (whatever that may be). Looking here there and everywhere trying to get clues of what happened but not settling to get what fits their ideas of what should be. As you use the show, it would be like the detectives arrest someone and build up a case against them and put them away rather than letting the evidence reveal the truth. In reality police are under pressure to put someone away (to satisfy the public), they have limited time and money and will put innocent people in jail.

    • Exactly, Norman. I frequently watch ID TV and I’m struck by how many times what you mention happens. Of course, there are many exceptions to this, Joe Kenda being one of them. Kenda’s made it explicitly clear, and his record has proved it, that he didn’t allow the prosecutor’s office, which was/is highly influenced by politics and public opinion, to dictate his investigations. He did precisely what you advise, and that is he let the evidence reveal the crime and the perpetrator as it will most of the time with few exceptions…like the Zodiac case.

      Take a look at my blog when you get a chance, if you haven’t already. It’s in the sentiment of True Detective and Joe Kenda. My first post is still in progress and it’s a long one, but there’s nothing wrong with a long post if it’s a thesis of sorts.

    • Lewis Guignard says:


      Unfortunately, what you say about police is all too true, but worse are prosecutors who are more concerned with their political careers, proving they are ‘tough on crime’, than they are seeking the truth. They, whom we elect, should absolutely be seeking the truth, but too often do not, because it doesn’t serve their individual purposes.

      These problems are similar to the IPCC etc, wherein the advocates are concerned with their power and careers, and care not the results of their actions/positions on others.

      It is a common problem of people with power using that power to abuse others instead of help others.

  16. James English says:

    Dr. Spencer

    I have not been able to find any ice core data for CO2 since atmospheric measurements began. Do these data exist. I would like to see how closely they compare.

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