5 fast facts about the lack of ice on Lake Superior this year

A lighthouse scene on a lake
Lake Superior in Duluth ahead of a blizzard on Dec. 21.
Courtesy of Christopher Paris

There’s not much ice on Lake Superior this winter, and total ice cover has been decreasing for decades. What’s behind the change? And what’s the outlook for the rest of this winter?

Jay Austin with the University of Minnesota Duluth tracks ice cover on Lake Superior. He appeared on Climate Cast to share his expertise. These are the key takeaways from his conversation with Chief Meteorologist Paul Huttner:

  1. Trending lower: Historically at this time of year, Lake Superior has an average of 23 percent ice cover. Right now, the ice cover is estimated at just 8 percent.

  2. Forecast: It’s likely to be a low ice year due to the unusually warm November and December months.

  3. Air Temperature: Ice cover is strongly dependent on the average air temperature over the course of winter.

  4. Small changes, big effects: Small differences in air temperature can lead to large differences in the ice response.

  5. Cultural and ecological impacts: A lack of ice cover has effects on tourism, shipping, and coastal refuge for fish species.

To hear more, click play on the audio player above or subscribe to the Climate Cast podcast.

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