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Great Lakes ice coverage well below average; how that could affect the rest of winter

Ryan Great Lakes Ice Coverage

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — There is a springlike feel in the air to start off this February.

Above-average temperatures have consistently been recorded over the last week in the Midwest.

On the Great Lakes, ice coverage is running well below average and near record lows with the most recent warm stretch.

Only 7.9% of the Great Lakes is covered in any sort of ice. With nothing but above-average temperatures in the forecast for our region, it would not be a surprise to see that number shrink.

The typical time period where ice coverage is at its peak in the Great Lakes is late February and early March. So far this winter, our peak ice coverage checked in at 16% during an arctic blast in the middle of January.

Since 1973, there have only been a few years that have rivaled our low ice coverage at the start of February. Historically, from 1973-2023, average ice coverage should be in the 30%-40% range at this point.

Lack of ice coverage impacts

Besides the impact of wildlife and local communities that depend on ice fishing, our future weather pattern is something to watch for the rest of winter.

With the lack of ice, any cold air blast will have an increased potential of lake-effect snow. Ice prevents evaporation, which acts as a deterrent for lake-effect snow.

Areas in blue highlighted in the graphic below tend to be target areas of lake-effect snow. This includes northwestern Indiana. As a reminder, it isn’t unheard of for a lake-effect snow band to stretch off of Lake Michigan into central Indiana.

You can find our latest 8-day forecast for central Indiana by visiting the Storm Track 8 weather blog.