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Expect low ice years on Lake Superior to continue

A view of Lake Superior and the ice.
Ice collects along the shore of Lake Superior in Duluth, Minn., on Feb. 9.
Dan Kraker | MPR News file

It was a lackluster year for ice on Lake Superior — at least until a February arctic outbreak boosted ice coverage to 50 percent. But that ice quickly vanished with our mild March.

What role did climate change play?

The long-term trend shows fewer and fewer years where there’s enough ice for recreation like visiting the Apostle Islands ice caves, said professor Jay Austin. He researches all things Lake Superior with the Large Lakes Observatory at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

“The difference between a year — where we see lots of ice on the lakes where people are out ice fishing and the shipping season is impacted — and a low ice year can be due to differences in air temperatures on the order of 2 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit,” Austin said.

Minnesota winters have warmed about 5 degrees on average since 1970.

Austin joined MPR chief meteorologist Paul Huttner on this week’s Climate Cast. Click play on the audio player above or subscribe to the Climate Cast podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify, or RSS to hear their conversation.

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