Lake Erie Getting Ice Covered

The cold weather this last month has led to Lake Erie developing ice cover. This past week, the temperature has been averaging about 20 F (-6 C). Even with temperatures in the 50s and 60s F (10 C to 15 C), ice has formed. See the Figure 1 below.

As you can see in the picture, the ice on Lake Erie is broken up into things that look like islands. The wind blows the ice around and breaks it up. There is a straight line through Lake St. Clair that extends down into Lake Erie. What do you think caused this straight line? Usually, on Earth, straight lines are produced by humans.

Figure 1: MODIS satellites image of Lake Erie February 6, 2013.

Figure 2: MODIS satellite image of Lake Erie from January 24, 2013.

As you can see, on January 24, 2013, just two weeks ago, the Western basin of Lake Erie was ice covered and  there was some ice on the northern side of the lake. You can see that areas of Southern Ontario north of Lake Erie did not have snow on the ground on January 24, 2013 and then on February 6, 2013, there is snow.

As part of GLOBE’s Seasons and Biomes Earth System Science Program (ESSP), I have taken pictures of the Ottawa River that flows through the University of Toledo and then empties into Lake Erie. I took pictures from the shore across the river and then from the bridge upstream and downstream.

Figure 3: GLOBE Seasons and Biomes instructions for taking pictures of ice cover.

You can see in the pictures that the river has ice along the banks. Why is the river not frozen while the lake is? Last week, the river was completely ice covered. But, when temperatures went way up and it rained, the ice melted and washed away.

Figure 4: Picture of the Ottawa River from a) across, b) upstream, and c) downstream

a) across


b) Upstream


c) downstream

Be sure to be safe around ice.

In the US, a major snowstorm is going to hit New England tomorrow. We think that as Meteorologists that the computer models have weather figured out. Well, this major storm was not predicted by the forecast computer models until last night, Feb. 6, 2013, i.e. 24 hour notice. It makes me realize that we still have a lot to learn.

Dr. C

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