Harsh winter pushes Great Lakes ice coverage to near all-time record

By Blake Mathews - Meteorologist
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - I published a story last week regarding the massive ice extent on the Great Lakes for the 2013-2014 winter. Since then, the ice has continued to expand rapidly making a mockery of this global warming, oops, I mean climate change argument. 

As of February 18th 2014, according to NOAA, the ice extent is up to between 85 and 88 percent surface coverage. That's up from 77 percent just last week! The picture on the left is the latest ice extent according to NOAA.

The significance? If the ice continues to expand at current rates, we'll shatter the all-time record of ice coverage which was set in 1979 at 94.7 percent. As seen above, Lake Superior is nearly completely frozen over. Thanks John Gaughan for the picture. 

The long-term median ice coverage of the lakes on any given year is about 51 percent as seen in the chart below.

Let's face it: it is so cold that Honey Boo Boo actually wore shoes to keep warm! Thanks Craig Ferguson for that one.  

My grandfather always taught me to believe nothing of what I hear and only half of what I see. Even Mark Twain said "it is not the things that we don't know that hurt us. Rather the things we know for sure that are true that just ain't so." 

So here's what really gripes me: Al Gore in 2008 was quoted in his "Earth has a fever" speech that, "the entire north polar ice cap will be gone in 5 years.'' Now going on six years later, the Great Lakes are approaching the greatest ice extent on record and the North Pole has actually recovered some of its lost ice. According to multiple sources, the arctic ice has increased by 50 to 60 percent---although it is new ice and not multi-year, thick ice.

Back to the Great Lakes. Heading into this upcoming week, something extraordinary is about to be witnessed by many across the USA: a thaw! While the "thaw" may stifle ice growth on the lakes, it'll only be a temporary retard in the growth.

According to the NOAA's Climate Center (seen at right)

, another arctic dump is anticipated across the Great Lakes and northeastern US in the next 10 days that will once again allow the ice to push full steam ahead to the all-time record extent.

As for our weather, it's too early to give the all clear on freezes here in Jacksonville. Our average last freeze is February 26th but have had a freeze as late as April 8th. So for those that are still hibernating from the wrath of Jack Frost, hang on a bit longer. You've almost survived a really bad winter.  


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