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Lake Erie forecasted to be 80% ice covered in 2020 winter

The Plain Dealer  Cleveland logo The Plain Dealer Cleveland 1/6/2020 By Laura Johnston, cleveland.com

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Lake Erie is expected to reach 80% ice coverage by late February, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Across all five Great Lakes, the administration forecasts a 47% freeze, below the 55.7% long-term average but well above the 9.5% coverage in 2002, the lowest amount recorded since record keeping began in 1973.

Lake Erie, the shallowest of the lakes, is expected to have the biggest freeze. Here are the rest of the projections:

-- Lake Superior 54%

-- Lake Michigan 41%

-- Lake Huron 66%

-- Lake Ontario 32%

The forecast is based on the predicted behaviors of four air masses across the globe, including the El Nino and Southern Oscillation and North Atlantic Oscillation, which heavily influence the variability of Great Lakes ice cover.

Right now, the Great Lakes are about 1.3% frozen, in the northwestern reaches of Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron.

Once the ice spreads, the Lake Carriers Association worries the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards won’t be able to keep freighters moving. The U.S. has nine ice breakers ready to work this winter, down significantly from the 1990s. The Canadian Coast Guard has two.

The maximum ice coverage ever was 1979, at 94.7%, according to the administration.

But we’ve come close in recent years, with 92.5% in 2014 and 88.8% in 2015.

We also had good ice in 2018, along with lots of ice fishing around the Erie Islands. And even the harbors off downtown Cleveland.

See a helicopter tour of the ice in 2018.

As for this year, we’re still a bit away from ice. According to the National Weather Service, the water temperature in Lake Erie is 39 degrees off of Cleveland. Not that we’ve seen a whole lot of lake-effect snow so far this winter.

For more Lake Erie news, follow RocktheLake on Facebook.

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