Despite Near Record-High Temperatures, Ice Remains on the Great Lakes

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
May 27 2014 3:58 PM

Despite Near Record-High Temperatures, Ice Remains on the Great Lakes

Despite record warm temperatures over the Memorial Day weekend, it’s still wintery in parts of the Great Lakes.

Along the balmy northern shores of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, this weekend’s mix of record-breaking warmth and vestigial ice from a polar vortex dominated winter created surreal scenes:

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(Yes, those people are kayaking between icebergs.)

On Monday, a still-frozen Duluth, Minn., hit 85 degrees—20 degrees above normal and tying the record high set in 1978. (Records in Duluth date back to 1870.) But what’s considered normal around here is a bit of a question mark these days.

The always astute Jason Samenow of the Washington Post noted:

Environment Canada had hoisted a “special ice warning” for “rotten thick lake ice near Duluth and east of the Apostle Islands.” A similar warning was in effect for the eastern part of Lake Superior, around Marquette.

Rotten or not, the effect was starkly beautiful.

Here’s a close-up view from the Madeline Island ferry on Lake Superior in far northern Wisconsin, which connects the Apostle Islands with the mainland:

This is the same route my wife and I drove over when the lake was frozen solid back in February, while we were exploring the spectacular ice caves there. The ice extent is still breaking records, with around 4.5 percent of Lake Superior’s surface still frozen. Half that ice will still be around when the calendar flips to June this weekend.

FT-140527-ice
The latest NOAA forecast calls for icebergs in June on Lake Superior.

Image: NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Eric Holthaus is a meteorologist who writes about weather and climate for Slate’s Future Tense. Follow him on Twitter.

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