It’s a Big Lake – Perspective Depends on Location
Many of the 1500 or so subscribers to Infosuperior live directly on Lake Superior’s shore or have a view of the lake from where they live or work. We also know from correspondence with readers that many visit the lake almost daily to walk, snowshoe, ski, run or photograph.
Infosuperior readers hail from around the entire lake, observing ice and lake conditions from Michigan, Ontario, Wisconsin and Minnesota shores. Depending upon location, perspective is unique. If you’ve been regularly looking out at Lake Superior and have seen nothing but endless, snow covered ice, you may be thinking that the entire lake is ice covered. Conversely, if you are seeing open water you may think the lake has yet to freeze over, but this is not the case across the entire lake. Even while partially obscured, the above February 11th satellite photo shows that part of the lake is completely ice covered, part is less than solid ice and part is open water.
Mid-February Superior Ice Cover at 70%
At time of writing (February 13th, 2019), ice cover on Lake Superior stood at about 70%. Last year on the same date ice coverage was similar, at about 69%. In 2017, however, Lake Superior ice cover stood at only 6% in mid-February.
As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite photo accompanying this article shows, the Ontario bays in north-central Lake Superior are completely ice covered. This includes Thunder Bay, Black Bay, Nipigon Bay, Jackfish Bay, Port Caldwell, Peninsula Harbour at Marathon, and even out to the Slate Islands off Terrace Bay, north of Pic Island in the Neys Provincial Park area. Conditions across the rest of the lake are not nearly so uniform. Although all recent satellite photos are heavily obscured by cloud, it is still possible to see that a great deal of open water and less than solid ice is present in the February 11th satellite photo.
Several Recent High Ice Cover Years
The most recent winter in which NOAA lists ice cover as 100% is 1996, although ice cover in other winters over the last 10 years has also been quite high, as laid out below:
- 2015 – 95.7%
- 2014 – 95.8%
- 2009 – 93.7%
Ten Year Averages Highlight Ice Cover Trend Over Time
Ten year Lake Superior annual maximum ice cover averages, beginning in 1973, are laid out below:
- 1973–1982 – 77.2%
- 1983–1992 – 68.61%
- 1993–2002 – 49.9%
- 2003–2012 – 50.1%
Infosuperior provides access to a wide range of Lake Superior data, all in one place. Ice cover is the top link at:
- NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory Main Ice Cover Page.
- NOAA Lake Superior Ice Cover Satellite Photos
- Canadian Ice Centre
- Very Detailed Canadian Ice Centre Ice Map of Lake Superior ice (note, those areas coloured grey in extreme northern Lake Superior represent “fast,” very solid ice. (See codes for reading maps directly below)
- World Meteorological Organization Concentration Colour Code for Lake Ice
- World Meteorological Organization Stage of Development Colour Code for Lake Ice
- World Meteorological Organization “Egg Code” for Lake Ice
Previous Articles About Lake Superior Ice Cover:
- April 3, 2018 Infosuperior Article: Water Level Second Highest Ever; Ice Cover Up
- February 21, 2017 Infosuperior article: Ice Cover On Lake Superior Near-Record Lows
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