If you live around the Great Lakes especially downwind in wintertime, you probably experience lake effect snow especially during the first half of winter when the lakes are warmer and free of ice. Here in northern Ohio we live on the southern edge of Lake Erie (warmest and shallowest lake) directly in the lake effect snow firing line. More ice on Lake Erie reduces lake effect snow potential. So each winter by mid January, the same question pops up: Will the lake freeze?
|Photo Courtesy: Scott Sabol February 2013|
Let's see how much ice is on the lake right now (as of January 12). Roughly 0.6%
(Right after Christmas, we reached 1.2% ice coverage on the 27th of December before it melted off)
In these years ice coverage jumped significantly in just a few weeks!
Why did those years develop ice so quickly? Look at the temperatures vs normal across the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley between January 11th (low ice coverage) and the day when ice coverage reached at least 80% FOR EACH OF THESE 6 YEARS.
I tabulated the number of days where the high temperatures in Cleveland stayed at/under 32° and the overnight lows stayed at/under 15°.
The below normal cold wasn't just relegated to Ohio. In each year, the cold was widespread over multiple weeks!
|1985: Every day was under 32 degrees. Half of nights under 15 degrees|
|1997: Half of days under 32 degrees. 10 of 13 nights under 15 degrees|
|2000: 14 of 18 days under 32 degrees. 11 of 18 nights under 15 degrees|
|2004: 9 of 15 days under 32 degrees. 10 of 15 nights under 15 degrees|
|2019: Half of days under 32 degrees. Only 8 of 20 nights under 15 degrees|
The Lake Erie water temperatures in these years started out well above freezing between January 11 and January 13. By day 10 (January 23) the water temp had dropped to between 32 and 34 degrees...