Lake Superior ice-cover running way below average

Less than 4 percent of the big lake is covered with ice

Lake Superior ice cover Wednesday afternoon
NASA MODIS-Terra 250-meter resolution image of Lake Superior Wednesday afternoon. The dense cloud streaks show lake-effect snow plumes forming over the open water as colder air pours southeast.
NASA via University of Wisconsin-Madison

Lake Superior will have to play catch-up to get close to average ice-cover. Our mild winter so far has produced only around 4 percent ice-cover on the big lake so far.

That’s well below the average of around 20 percent by late January.

Great Lakes historically low ice-cover

Ice-cover on the Great Lakes as a whole is running near historical lows. You can see on the chart below that this season is running among the lowest on record for the Great Lakes. The average ice cover on the Great Lakes by this date is about 19 percent.

Great Lakes ice cover
Historical Great Lakes ice cover for late Janaury
Environment Canada

Another arctic shot ahead?

It looks like we may be making some more ice on the Great Lakes as we move into February. The upper air forecast charts suggest another wave of arctic air may dive south in about 10 days.

Upper air forecast map for 6 pm February 6
Upper air forecast map for 6 p.m. Feb. 6.

The medium-range GFS plots suggest the first weekend of February could be very cold. These projections usually moderate as we move colder, but the early numbers are attention-getting.

NOAA GFS model 16-day temperature outlook for Twin Cities
NOAA GFS model 16-day temperature outlook for Twin Cities
NOAA via Meteostar

I’m skeptical about absolute temperature forecasts this far out, but it will be interesting to see if the Twin Cities metro area hits minus 28 two winters in a row.

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