Ice: Complex Change Over Time
Posted on: January 15, 2018
Lake Superior Historical Ice Cover.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides a graphic animation of Lake Superior ice cover, every year since 1973. Click anywhere on the above graphic to proceed to NOAA’s animation.

Animating Ice Cover

Ice cover is a common topic of conversation for those living near Lake Superior in winter, just as water levels are a common topic in summer. Blanket statements about reduced or increased ice cover may over-simplify the situation on Superior because the long-term trend is actually quite complex.

The Infosuperior site includes a wealth of raw Lake Superior environmental data (water levels, water temperature, historical water temperature, real-time river flow to the lake, bathymetry, etc), including a graphic representation of ice cover. The graphic illustrates changing conditions over time with an image depicting ice coverage for each winter since 1973. The animated data is provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


Change Over Time

Ice cover for the winter of 2017 stood at about 25%. How does this compare with previous years? According to NOAA’s animation, the number of years with very low ice cover, is the same as the number of years with very high ice cover. Take a look at the following chart, utilizing data from NOAA’s animation. Years in bold were either extremely low, or high, depending on the column.

(near 25%)
(near 100%)
1983 1977
1987 1978
1998 1979
1999 1994
2002 1996
2006 2014
2012 2015

If you would like to see historic ice cover conditions for yourself, a link to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s animated graphic is provided above.