Lake Superior Freeze/Thaw Time Lapse: Ice Until June?

April 29th, 2014 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

I put together this time lapse video of Lake Superior satellite imagery, from MODIS on NASA’s Aqua and Terra satellites, which spans Dec. 11, 2013 through yesterday, April 28, 2014. I included only days when the lake was not overcast with clouds.

As the lake cooled from strong arctic air mass outbreaks in December and January, lake effect convective snow bands predominate. Then, as the lake gradually freezes, there are more clear days as the moisture source for the clouds is shut off.

Note how much the ice moves from wind changes, just as it does in the Arctic Ocean. It used to be that people ice fishing would become stranded when the wind shifted and blew the ice floe they were on out onto the lake.

With record-high ice coverage for the end of April, and more cold weather on the way, it is possible that Superior might not be entirely ice-free until June. I used to live on the St. Marys River, which drains out of Lake Superior, and I remember a couple of years in the 1970s when ice was still floating downstream by late Spring.

Some great winter photography of Lake Superior is available at Lake Superior Photo, including ice caves, aurora, and various ice-scapes.

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