Following one of the coldest winter’s [sic] on record for the region with temperatures from Jan. 1 to April 1 averaging seven degrees below normal, the Great Lakes hit their second highest ice coverage on record, reaching 92.19 percent on March 6, 2014. Moving into the spring season, more than one-third or 38 percent, of the Great Lakes remained covered in ice in mid-April, causing major problems for the steel industry as the business relied on the waterways for shipping and transporting goods and materials. “There are no years in the last 30 years that are even close to that, so it’s very unusual this late in the season to have that much ice coverage,” AccuWeather.com Lead Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok said. The last time the ice coverage on the lakes lasted nearly this long was in 2003, when the last of the ice cleared on May 29, according to Leshkevich.
Levi Read from the 9th Coast Guard District in Cleveland said that air temperature, currents of the water, and the water temperatures all played a part in melting the ice but added that, “The water is still very, very cold and it’s very dangerous for people to go out and get in it.” Read said, “The Coast Guard considers anything below 72 F a cold water rescue.” Currently the lakes are ranging in temperature from the 40s to the mid-60s.
Nature World News reported that at one point in March all of the lakes combined were approximately 91 percent covered in ice, the most since 1979, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Center. Scientists with the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center (GLISA) forecast that surface temperatures over the deepest parts of Lake Superior, the last to thaw this year, will still be in the 40s F (about 4 C), by August.
NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Center said that the amount of ice cover on the Great Lakes varies from year to year but warned that “scientists are observing long-term changes in ice cover as a result of global warming.”