Meadville Tribune

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March 4, 2014

Prepare for a cool spring, summer due to frozen Great Lakes

It’s been a great winter for ice, according to regional and state meteorologists tracking the record freeze on the Great Lakes this year.

With record ice coverage on Lake Superior and more ice on the other lakes than has been seen in about 20 years, meteorologists believe the incoming spring and summer may be cooled down as a result.

“Things are running so icy and cold that we’re not seeing the typical thaw as we approach March,” said Geoff Cornish, chief meteorologist for WICU-TV in Erie. “Spring will probably have a slow start and the very cold weather will be acting as a fridge for air heading in our direction.”

Winds traveling across the Great Lakes from the northwest are expected to drop spring temperatures about two or three degrees below average until water temperatures rise and the lakes thaw, he said.

As of late last week, Lake Erie experienced 96 percent ice coverage with the Great Lakes total capping off around 81 percent. Most of the lakes are entirely iced over with the freeze reaching well below the surface.

A typical winter only covers about 30 to 40 percent of the lakes with ice, according to State College-based AccuWeather reports.

Having froze the fastest, Lake Erie should also rebound more quickly than the other lakes as a result of its shallowness, according to Randy Adkins, AccuWeather meteorologist.

“By the time we hit the later summer, it’s likely that lake temperatures will approach normal,” he said. “But places like Meadville and anywhere near the Great Lakes will have a cooler summertime in the earlier months like June.”

Sunlight reaching the lakes will be reflected back off the ice, drawing out the thawing process, according to AccuWeather.

The cooler air impact is expected to decrease as the summer progresses and the region should experience plenty of sunshine and warmer wind shifts from the south. The cooling effect should only apply to winds crossing the Great Lakes, Adkins added.

“There’s also the potential impact for less precipitation than normal because the cooler air would suppress thunderstorm activity,” he said. “It’s in no way a guarantee, but there’s definitely the potential. The impact is certainly likely to lessen cloud cover.”

Another potential upside of the ice coverage is the chance that lake water levels will not lower as much as last year because less water is expected to evaporate, according to AccuWeather.

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