GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (March 5, 2014)– Great Lakes Ice Coverage set yet another record Tuesday as ice increased to the highest levels in twenty years. The Great Lakes Basin increased to 91 percent, which is now less than four percent away from the all-time record high of 94.7 percent.
All of the Great Lakes increased in ice coverage thanks to below average temperatures but Lake Michigan saw the greatest increase to 92.45 percent. Lake Michigan now sits at less than one percent away from the all-time record for ice coverage. We are on track to break both all-time records in the next few days.
Record ice and low temperatures are causing some concern from the Army Corp of Engineers as we transition into the melting season. Keith Kompoltowicz, Chief Hydrologist with the Army Corp of Engineers in Detroit says that record snow pack combined with high snow-water equivalents within the pack will lead to an increase in flooding potential, especially in southern Lake Michigan. Snow-water equivalents are the amount of liquid present within the snow pack and this winter they are the highest they have been in a decade.
While the increase in flooding potential is a downside to record snow, there is a silver lining as lake levels will be thirteen inches above last year’s levels. After hitting a record low on Lake Michigan last year, an increase in snow and ice melt will help rebound levels slightly but even with thirteen more inches this spring, Lake Michigan will still be between nine to thirteen inches from the long-term average.
With the flood of 2013 still fresh in our memories, we will obviously be watching the next several weeks very closely. A slow gradual melt will help decrease our flooding potential and light spring rains will recharge the soil without adding additional run off into our lakes and rivers. But the increased ice and snow isn’t all bad, it brings good news for farmers and fisherman. Increased ice coverage is needed to help Great Lakes Whitefish spawn, which increases the fish population and cold temperatures along the Lakeshore delay the start of the growing season, which typically decreases the chances of a killing frost to fruit crops.