Water temperature of the Great Lakes is over 6 degrees colder than last year, 3 degrees colder than normal

Meteorologist Mark Torregrossa writes on Michigan Live about the lingering effect of historic ice extent last winter in the Great Lakes and late ice melt this summer due to that extent:

Lakes Superior and Lake Michigan are currently six degrees colder than last year. If the water continues to remain colder than normal, it could have an impact on Michigan’s winter in several ways.

The average water temperature on Lake Superior and Lake Michigan is currently colder than both last year and the long-term average.

Currently Lake Superior has an average surface water temperature of 47.6 degrees. Last year on this date Lake Superior was at 53.7 degrees. The long-term average water temperature on Lake Superior for October 11 is 51.1 degrees.

So Lake Superior is 6.1 degrees colder than this time last year, and 3.5 degrees colder than normal.

Lake Michigan has an average surface water temperature of 56.0 degrees, while last year at this time it was 62.1 degrees. The long-term average water temperature on Lake Michigan for October 11 is 58.4 degrees.

Lake Michigan is also 6.1 degrees colder than this time last year, and 2.4 degrees colder than average.

Lake Huron is 5 degrees colder than last year, and only 1.5 degrees colder than normal.


great-lakes_sea_curThis map above shows current surface water temperatures on the Great Lakes. Lake Superior has a large area of water with temperatures in the 40s. (Source: Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory)

He goes on to talk about the effects this might have on winter:

A warmer Lake Superior and Lake Michigan can really have a modifying effect on bitter cold temperatures. For example, in an early season cold outbreak, Green Bay, WI may have a temperature of 20 degrees. Traverse City, on our side of Lake Michigan, may hold in the mid 30s for temperatures. I usually figure there is a 10 to 20 degree warming effect from Lake Michigan, and also Lake Superior.

But if the lake temperatures continue at this colder pace, cold air will have an easier time moving into Michigan.

So the first impact of cold water could be earlier cold temperatures in November and December.

If the lakes continue through winter colder than normal, freezing over of the lakes would happen earlier.

How does this cold fact square up in the face of claims of “hottest ever”? Is the region in for a record cold winter? It sure looks like it may be more likely due to the influence of this massive heat sink.

[headline updated for accuracy – mod]


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A lot of lake and [seawater] at the NH is far under average at this moment. See link.

george e. smith

So what’s with the crazy color scheme for this SST map ?? Seems like each color has multiple temperatures.
Melting all of that lake ice of last winter, would suck a heck of a lot of latent heat out of the lake water.
It’s almost as if the next ice age, is starting right under our noses, in the great lakes. I believe the last one was called the Wisconsin Glaciation; or perhaps just the local part of it was.


“the last one was called the Wisconsin Glaciation”
Oh, that was just “weather”, wasn’t it?

Robert W Turner

That is a horrible color scheme.
Named for the furthest extent of glaciation in that pulse I believe. Those names are not preferred. I think Marine Isotope Stage (#), or MIS#, are the technical names.


Doesn’t water give off BTU’s as it freezes, thereby warming the surrounding air?


George, after a hit of acid, the colors are like, “cool”.

Ben Dover

RE: Crazy Color Scheme.
The image is clearly titled “Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly”
That color code legend IS the anomaly.

Big John

See “bananapilot” below. It takes heat from the water to freeze it. That is without loss of sensible heat (or loss of temperature) so, in a way, there is heat around. But it is already being sucked into something else to provide the freeze for the water. It may stop the air from being a little colder but it’s more likely heat loss to space by radiation. That’s why cloudy nights stay warmer while the desert freezes at night after a blistering hot day. Try studying engineering sometime. You can learn something.

Big John

Re: Bonanzapilot: My comment should read “above” as I didn’t realize my comment would appear below his.


Clearly the map seems meant to confuse rather than enlighten.


Big John: I’m basically a lurker here, I’m not a scientist. What I do know is that if the temperature drops to 28F in my lemon orchard, the crop will be damaged. There are various lines of defense as temperatures drop, but the first is irrigation. As long as you have water changing state on the ground, the temperature inside a lemon tree will stay constant at about 31 to 32F.
Thanks for the further explanation.

David Ball

I just cannot make heads or tails of these unless they are flaming reds and neon oranges.


Bonanza Pilot … I believe what happens is once the water turns into ice, the ice acts as insulation for your fruit and fruit trees as the ice will stay around 32 degrees even though the air temperature is lower. It’s the same principle as an igloo or with a snow cave. Also, the water itself with which you are irrigating has heat in it that helps keep the temperature around it slightly warmer … kind of like when you pass your hand near a hot surface, you can feel the heated air without actually touching the surface.


The first map reminds me of the 60’s, up in Palo Alto, when the CIA was providing high quality product through project MKULTRA.


Not exactly, the water will give off energy that will prevent the temperature getting lower untill the phase change is complete. The energy can’t increase the air temperature above the temperature of the ice/water (slush) which is at 0 degrees C but it can prevent it from falling below zero.
Think of it this way, if the energy given off was to get the temp over zero, then some of the ice would start to melt back to water, absorbing energy until it’s now zero again. So freezing ice stays at the same temperature until it is fully a solid. That’s why watering plants can prevent frost damage, it takes quite a lot of energy loss to get from the liquid to solid state, and until that happens the plant actually doesn’t get to subzero regardless of the air temperature.
Interestingly, most plants have some oils mixed with the water in their cells, which means the water in the cells don’t freeze until about -1 or -2 deg C, snow on the plants is around zero, and prevents the direct contact with the air that might be colder than that. So in fact the snow can actually prevent freeze damage of plants. Isn’t life amazing!


so it colder than normal. SO it proves global warming


BobL. Thanks for the additional info. A lemon won’t suffer damage until about 28F because of all the oil and stuff in it, so as long as you can keep the phase change going with irrigation water, you’re ok. It used to be easier, but newly mandated low flow systems freeze up more quickly than the old ones did. Next you turn on the wind machines, which draw warmer air from an inversion layer which generally forms about 10 meters over the orchard. If that fails you bring on heaters. If it gets really bad, you bring in helicopters to force the heat down. All of that failing, you write off the year and go back to bed.


Please forward this info to SecDef Hagel, who just proclaimed global warming the DoD’s biggest issue.


I thing Mr. Hagel has better things to do with his time; such as analyzing this surveillance feed:

Al Gore and the democrats will still push their global warming BS no matter what the science says,they just want that cap and trade tax for the rest of us to pay.


Global warming means that the whole Earth is warming. This article is about a regional event. Hardly “proof” against global warming.


Just another piece of progressive proof that global warming is their ticket to domination. Pity this didn’t occur 40 years ago when the same prevaricators were trying to push “Global Cooling”!

Yeah, because the science is settled… right?

Gorebal Cooling.

Pat Boyle

About twenty years ago I fell off a jet ski into Lake Huron. It was damn cold.
So in the spirit of the day all I can say is – “Repent – the end is near!”.

Chris Columbus

You guys finally noticed. America’s Messiah has solved Global Warming.


I believe “Gore-bull cooling” is the more correct version.

Tommy Boy….the Earth’s temp hasn’t risen since 1994….hardly “proof” of global warming.

Bruce Gregory

Just an example of heat transfer. Al Gore and his fellow parishioners of the Church of Global Gloom & Doom are spouting so much mindless heated rhetoric it has had this effect on the Great Lakes. Send in your contributions and all will be well.


There is a reason they stopped calling it global warming and started calling it climate change. The science does not match what they claimed was happening. Settled science indeed. AS IF THERE IS SUCH A THING!


Here is graphic from NOAA with an easier to interpret color scheme. However it shows the Great Lakes except Lake Superior as warm.
Source …

R. Shearer

That’s the “adjusted” data.

CD in AZ

Sea Surface Temperatures are only thing that matters? How about the multiple thermal levels below surface? Anyone measured those or are we just going off what benefits the climatologists?


The story is about the great lakes. The two temperature graphics are in conflict. The NOAA map shows Lake Michigan in red indicating it is warm while the article and psychedelic graphic says Lake Michigan is cool.


The best source by far is EC for SST.

Brian H

?? That image blacks out all the continents. So it gives zero info about the Great Lakes.

Ashey Nevins

The florescent map must be a mind map of a bad Al Core LSD trip.

Mario Lento

The color scheme reminds a little the early days personal computers before VGA… only 16 colors.


Color Quantization Overview
Before I start slinging code, let’s briefly discuss color quantization and why it’s needed in Win32. Windows¨ uses a 24-bit RGB color model that represents individual colors by combining 8-bit red, green, and blue values. On video adapters that support 24-bit color, Windows displays colors on the screen exactly as you specify them. On palettized output devices, Windows maps RGB color values to the nearest colors in the system palette. The vast majority of palettized video adapters can display at most 256 colors at a time. When a 24-bit bitmap is displayed on a 256-color device with the default system palette, colors in the bitmap are mapped to the same 20 static colors that the GDI programs into the adapter’s palette registers for menus, window frames, and so on. The resulting image typically suffers severe color degradation due to the limited number of colors available.



This is the proof of climate change we needed to….um….er……hey AlGore, a little help?

So now that the global warming trolls have changed the name of their voodoo science, don’t you thing it is about time they realized we are heading toward the next ice age? All blamed on CO2, of course… The Goracle and his band of witch doctors are working overtime to change their tune, eh?


I wish people would read a little more before making such comments. We are still technically “in” the last ice age. That is why there is ice cover on the poles and glaciers.


Luckily for the climate disruption folks all this is moot. The correct base line is what did their computer models predict the lake temps to be this time of the year in 2014? I am sure the Gore models had Superior at about 47.4ish and Michigan at about 55.875ish. So there. Actual observation are irrelevant…

You thought last year was a bitch!

Mike Maxwell

In addition to the odd color scheme, the map is a Mercator projection, which means that it greatly distorts area. Specifically, areas nearer the poles appear much larger than areas near the equator. You can see that in the way the lines of latitude, which are 10 degrees apart in this map, become further apart at the north and south regions of the map. That’s also why the north and south poles are never shown in Mercator projections: they would be infinitely far up or down. That’s also why Greenland appears so big (as do, to a lesser extent, Alaska and northern Canada, not to mention the Vikings’ homelands).
I point this out because area is exactly what you want to be able to compare in a map like this, and you can’t.

Mike Maxwell

In case it wasn’t clear–my comment about the Mercator projection is referring to the world map that Seppie posted, not to the map of the Great Lakes. That’s probably a Mercator projection too, but it doesn’t matter as much because the distance from the north to the south on that map is not a large fraction of the circumference of the globe. I believe the world map Speed posted, which does not have the latitude lines getting further apart near the poles, but shares some of the same problems of the Mercator projection, is a equirectangular projection.

Well, you know that Global Warming makes all the waters colder, Because the Heat is hiding down in the depths, because it does stuff like that, you know.


You read my mind.


Stealth Heat???


The missing heat is the liberals’ ‘monster under the bed’.

Yes, I read that a couple of weeks ago. Global warming is being stored at the bottom of the world’s oceans. It will one day rise from the depths and viola…We will have instant and catastrophic global warming. Only a liberal mind can think this way. If you do not understand how this is possible be very happy. That would mean you are probably not a liberal.


“Gorezilla” rises from the depths of the ocean to destroy the planet.


The problem is not that liberals don’t understand, or even that they can’t understand, it’s that they don’t CARE to understand. They’re happy to go along with whatever one of their self-appointed elite tells them, especially if it “coincidentally” dovetails with something they want to do anyway, like kneecap the industrialized word.

Rise to the surface, just like Godzilla or that big flying turtle Gammera…?


Just like Jehovah’s Witnesses claim Jesus returned to earth in 1914, but that we “just can’t see him yet”, the gnostic global warming religionists also claim secret knowledge about hidden truths and realities (i.e., hidden heat deep in the oceans) that only they understand. The Global Warming religion has all the hallmarks of a mystery religion or even cult. Protestant fundamentalists predict Armageddon and Global Warming fundamentalists predict climate apocalypse. Inside every global warming alarmists’ chest beats the heart of a narrow-minded, anti-science fundamentalist.


Thank God and Greyhound for global warming. I can’t take much more of this colder global warming! Imagine if the earth’s temp had gone up? Ice cubicicles everywhere. Seems like all the environmentalists socialists are going to have to look for some other endeavor to get their grant money. Hey, what about global cooling? Oh, I forgot, they have already tried that one. Too bad they let that one go to soon. Ice hockey anyone?

It’s true! My friends and I were diving off Catalina and we spotted something on the bottom. It was a Die Hard battery. Later on we discovered an A.C. Delco battery. When we posted these results online, hundreds of divers reported seeing batteries in rivers, lakes and in oceans. What better place to store that missing heat than a battery?

Can we expect less lake effect snow this winter?

Mary Brown

Last year, I had folks from Erie complain to me that they never get any snow anymore. I wondered if that was true. I ran the numbers. I can’t find them but off the top of my head, seems like we found a 30% INCREASE in snow from the 1970s to now. We were shocked at how statistically significant it seemed. I told the Erie people but they simply did not believe me.
Why the increase? Erie is a shallow lake that warms and cools quickly. I think the warming trend from 1970s to 2000 made warmer waters. Since we still get cold arctic outbreaks, the fall/early winter lapse rates over the lake are enhanced and lake effect snow is enhanced.
This is a case where global warming can lead to more snowfall. This would make a great master’s thesis for s snow junky….


Yeah right…global warming….its been happening since the end of the ice age. But you really want the government to tax the air we breath. Got to hand it to the liberals anything to hate for!


Children won’t know what snow is. An effect of Global Warming. Children will see more snow than evah!
Also an effect of Global Warming…. This is just getting stoopid.


CHECK THE PREDICTIONS MADE BY THE FORMER LOOSER VP. HAVE CITIES SUNK? GLACIERS DISAPPEAR COMPLETELY? ARTIC AND ANTARCTIC ICE DISAPPEARING? If they are, the stranded glbal warming scientists that headed for the antarctic believing their crap thaat the ice was decreasing, have to explain why they got caught in an ever expanding ice in the ANTARCTIC.
Test the truth. If crap comes out, crap was the source too!

Bruce Gregory

You can’t argue religion with these people and that’s what it is.


Last winter Erie, Pa had the highest snow fall of any city in the United States.

Paul Coppin

Lake Erie is the major snow generator for the US south shore ( and southern Ontario when the wind is right), until it freezes, thereafter the temps drop and the snowfall usually is much lighter due to lack of available moisture for lake effect. The historic pattern, which was perturbed from the late 60’s to now was for Lake Erie to remain open till about the last week of December, when it would begin to freeze over. By the end of January, it was pretty much frozen, as was the western end of Lake Ontario, and we would start to see longer stretches of clear skies, below zero days and nights through February. Last winter we had cold weather and the lakes got cold early, but what was different, was the “polar vortex” which brought a lot of strong NW winds across the region, and we wound up with lake effect snow streamers from the upper lakes, more so than we typically do. Last winter was nasty -really hope we don’t get another run of it..


cut the crap about “Polar Vortex” its called WINTER, normal traditional North American North East WINTER. its just boneheads aren’t accustomed to saying it.
Progressive liberal double speak to sneak in bunk so that you can double down on aggressive intervention taxation and over regulation programs.

Ben Dover

Of course you can expect less lake effect snow. I’d be surprised if anybody sees any snow ever. Geeze, doesn’t anybody listen to Al gore anymore?


Haven’t heard from him Word here is that he’s off hunting manbearpig. Half man, half bear, half pig.

Man-Bear-Pig gets no respect…

No, Chicago politics will still blow like they always have.

Scott M

I’ve been scrolling down to see if I was the only one to wonder that. I would think it may be not as bad as when the water is warmer. So less snowfall in Michigan would be good for the people there who endured quite a bit more than we had in Chicago last year. But would less snow cover have it’s own effects?

Bloke down the pub

Would I be right in thinking that this will reduce lake-effect snow?

it would mitigate it some

Bloke down the pub

@fhhaynie Doh!

I just read an article that is B/S because they claim more ice means it is warm!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I know that when I am having a party I leave my freezer door open because it makes more Ice too! No one wants a room temp drink. Ain’t Global Warming a hoot!


Bet that isn’t working for you. You should try leaving the oven open, it is much better than using the freezer to cool things down.

Ben Dover

Stop thinking like a taxpayer. Just drink the Kool-Aid. Your life will seem a lot less complicated.
Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

I saw that article too. So I poured a bag of ice into a broiling pan and poured an equal amount of water on top. I then baked the whole thing at 400f for 30 minutes. When I opened the oven door a huge load of steam came out and the ice was gone! The water in the pan was boiling and continued to boil for a while after I opened the oven door. My wife said the experiment was absurd. She claimed that all it did was make the kitchen hot and humid. I told her it was science.

Jimmy Haigh.

Donde esta el niño? Se fue!

Greg Woods

Ya viene, falta diciembre.

This was a good catch. I think it would be interesting to see what the lake temps around the country reflect with this same time frame. If it can be shown that the mean lake temps on these other lakes is also in a range of below 3.5 to 6.5 degrees cooler then we would expect to see a much colder winter. IMHO. And for Global Warming…. Let me go start my car in the driveway and let it warm up for a few hours before I head off to work. AGWHOAX


Thanks for the link. However, I question the introductory text attributing the cold water temperatures to historic ice extent (i.e. “the lingering effect of historic ice extent last winter”).
Although there are lots of factors, increased ice cover would tend to cause warmer water temperatures by reducing heat loss – a feedback mechanism. I suspect it was the below average air temperatures in the great lakes basin through most of the summer that have lead to the low water temperatures, not the amount and duration of winter ice.


I would say both.

Robert W Turner

More ice leads to less heat loss? No. More ice cover leads to summer heat going into the phase change of melting the ice rather than warming the water. This feedback overwhelms the insulating effect during the winter. By time an insulating effect from thick ice takes place the water at the surface has already lost most of its heat and the water at depth doesn’t have much heat to begin with.


@ Robert W Turner: To clarify your position – Are you suggesting that open water does not lose more heat to a sub-zero atmosphere than water capped with ice/snow? Or just that the effect is overwhelmed by the heat loss required for phase change? Thanks.

‘More ice leads to less heat loss? No.’
A somewhat misleading statement. Although I’m sure not deliberate.
The Great Lakes will lose heat until ice forms. If the water is colder, the lakes have less heat to lose before ice forms. Therefore the statement ‘More ice leads to less heat loss?’ is only true to the extent there was less heat to lose in the first place.
More climatically important is the albedo (cooling) effect of more ice for longer.
I’ll be interested in seeing what happens next year.

Robert W Turner

To clarify: I am saying that a thicker ice cover has an overall cooling effect in the long run, not an overall warming effect. Before ice forms at all, the overall body of water cools to 4 degrees, like you say. This is when turnover occurs I believe, when the bottom waters become warmer than the surface waters as the surface continues to cool. The vertical column of water at the surface that is less than 4 degrees grows and the thermocline sinks. Ice first grows rapidly and then it slows, but the important factor is that the lake continues to lose energy if the air above is below freezing.
The cold air takes heat from the lake and creates a heat sink, just as warm air lends heat to the lake and creates a heat source. In a winter like last year a very large heat sink is formed. When summer heat returns it goes into the heat sink before it can go into warming the water to create a heat source which would stall the cooling and ice formation the next autumn. The thick ice that was created last winter stalled the warming of the lakes this summer and is the reason for the below average temperature lake temperature. Not only does this slow the rate at which the lake warms but it also cools the atmosphere around the lake, creating another feedback besides albedo.
I agree it will be interesting to see these feedback’s effects on ice formation this year, especially if we have another cold winter.

Robert W Turner
October 14, 2014 at 11:50 am
More ice leads to less heat loss? No.

Fine. You made the claim, now make the calculation.
(No! NOT the “summertime solar insolation” claim you just mentioned. That heat is long gone by the time ice does or does not cover any given sq meter of lake surface in October, November, Dec January or February. )
Show us the greater heat loss after ice covers a square meter of lake surface.
Air temperature = -15 C,
wind = 2 m/sec
water = 4 deg C
Tsky = -40 deg C (LW radiation loss also increases)
humidity = 50 %
Pressure = 1000 mbar
Show me the heat losses from an open lake surface by conduction, convection, evaporation, and LW radiation.
Then show the same losses for an ice-covered surface.
Hint: ALL heat losses are less.

Robert W Turner

Re: RACookPE1978 October 15, 2014 at 10:20 am
It is sad that I need to explain further; it’s like explaining the difference between warm and warming to a Warmist.
Look at the original post I replied to. That post by MJB refutes that thicker ice cover leads to cooler water in the summer on the basis that ice has an insolating effect. They were clearly confused in saying this, “increased ice cover would tend to cause warmer water temperatures by reducing heat loss – a feedback mechanism.” This statement is a paradox. Thick ice cover over a lake does not lead to warmer water, it simply slows the rate at which the lake can lose heat but the lake itself has less heat energy than a lake with thin ice cover and in both cases the water in both lakes is between 0-4 degrees. And this effect only takes place in the winter!
Now fast forward to spring and consider a lake with thick ice versus a lake with thin ice cover. The lake with thick ice cover obviously has less heat energy and is going to take much longer to heat over the summer! When you have ice lingering on the lake until July then the thick ice cover clearly has reduced the temperature of the lake. Furthermore, the cooler summer temperatures could have had something to do with the cooler lake temperatures.


@ RobertWTurner. I think you have misread my original post. My original point was related to ice cover (i.e. extent and duration) not ice thickness. I tried to make that clear in my Oct14, 1pm post. I believe that is why RACook was asking about conduction, convection, evaporation, and LW radiation. Further, I never mentioned insolation, but rather insulation.
I concede that the melting of thicker ice will cool the water more than the melting of thin ice but that was not my point. My contention was the influence of melting ice in spring is dwarfed by the influence of the insulating effect of increased ice extent/duration through winter which lasts several months so adds up. Like the old saying, “money saved is money earned”, so it goes with heat. Further, I posited an alternative explanation for the low water temperatures, the low summer air temperatures that occurred across the GL basin most of this summer.
I will ask again, do you agree/disagree that open water loses more heat to a sub-zero atmosphere (i.e. sub 273 K) than water covered with ice/snow? If you agree, then it is only the relative size of each that is left to discuss. If you disagree, then I am not sure this is worth further discussion.


Are we forgetting less evaporation?


The ice does not lower the heat loss from the water. It is basically ice-cold all the way to the bottom.

My understanding is it is 4 deg C at the bottom, the temperature at which water reaches it’s maximum density. This is what causes spring and fall “turnover” in mid-high latitude fresh water lakes. Are you suggesting that surface water at 0.5 deg C does not transfer heat to an air mass that is -20 deg C? Is ice/snow cover not applying the same prinicple as putting one of those bubble wrap-style “pool blankets” on at night to retain heat absorbed during the day?


My apologies for the confusion, the “abc1379” post should read MJB. This is an old test account that the computer phantoms still occasionally associate with my e–mail.

Mike Maxwell

abc1379: While it’s true that fresh water is most dense at 4 deg C (about 39 deg F), I doubt that it has much effect in the winter. In the Summer, most lakes in temperate climes have a thermocline, at which depth the temp drops abruptly. In some lakes, the thermocline is only a few inches thick, and divers (I used to be a diver) can literally see the layer. In other lakes, the thermocline is considerably thicker. In my experience, the thermocline is generally thicker in larger lakes, due to the greater mixing effect of wind, particularly at “turnover” in Spring and Fall. In Lake Michigan, the effect of the wind is such that even in the summer, the warm water can all wind up on one side (usually the east), and the cold water wells up at the opposite side. I’ve felt 40-something degree water at the surface in August. You can see that effect in the map at the top of this article.
In the Fall, as the surface water in a lake cools down to near 4C, the wind starts to cause circulation of the water at all depths. Obviously this effect is indirect–the wind has no direct effect on water a hundred feet down, but eventually it all circulates (else you’d get a permanently stagnant body of water at the bottom, which doesn’t happen in most lakes, or even in quarries where the wind effect is minimal). The difference in density between 0C and 4C is not that great, and in most lakes–certainly in the Great Lakes–circulation continues until the lake freezes over. In sum, the temp under the ice is likely to be about the same–near 0C–from top to bottom.
Once that happens, and wind-driven circulation stops, I suppose there is some heat input from the surrounding ground. As cavers know (I used to do that, too), a cave tends to be at the same temp as the average temp for the region, and the ground is at that temp too. Presumably a lake therefore gains some heat from the surrounding ground over the winter as well. There’s also of course heat coming up from the hot rock deep within the Earth. How much effect the heat from the surrounding ground plus the heat from the Earth’s interior has over the course of the winter, I don’t know.

Mary Brown

RE Mike Maxwell…
Nice real world discussion of lake dynamics, quirks and behaviors. Thanks.


MikeMaxwell. I agree with most of what you wrote but find you are incorrect to say “the temp under the ice is likely to be about the same–near 0C–from top to bottom”. Yes, the density between 0 and 4 deg is not great, so not enough to resist mixing from wind in the fall, but once the ice forms, and assuming no significant currents, the temperature profile settles back in with the bottom being 4 deg, and progressively colder as you go up.
Lake superior for example shows average february temperatures around 4deg at 200m and averaging 2deg over the first 200m of water column. (www.glerl.noaa.gov/pubs/fulltext/1986/19860005.pdf – page 253)
But going back to my original post, my contention was that even cold water has heat to lose so a greater ice extent, for a longer period of time, would preserve more heat (i.e. insulate) than less ice extent for shorter periods.


Now how would this affect the Lake Effect snows? Colder= more snow earlier, but an early freeze over shutting off the moisture or just more snow?


Colder water means less lake effect snow. It’s the large, (relatively) warm moisture source that clashes with the cold air over land and gives rise to the lake effect.

Bob Boder

See they were right global warming means less snow!

Mike Maguire

Correct. This is why lake effect snows are heavier earlier in the season(all things equal regarding other favorable measures).
If the lake completely freezes over, the moisture added is no longer a factor and this greatly reduces lake effect snow. However, there are a couple of other ways the frozen lake can still enhance “lake effect” snow.
There is less friction across a lake(frozen or otherwise) for boundary layers winds. When this air encounters the higher friction of land, it aids in getting the air to rise. Add that to the fact that the land areas downwind have a higher elevation, (often hilly) and you get an additional boost upwards(upslope) to the air after it has crossed the relatively smooth and lower elevation lake, even if the lake is frozen. This will still enhance precipitation/snow.
Last Winter, Detroit Michigan had its snowiest Winter since records have been kept. Detroit is a couple hundred miles down wind(prevailing wind) from Lake Michigan, which normally only adds very minor amounts of moisture and snow to totals.


I grew up in northern Pennsylvania, and our ‘local’ TV news was out of Upstate New York. In the weather reports, they’d regularly talk about lake effect snow affecting the extreme western portion of their broadcast area. They’d also talk about ‘lake enhanced’ storms, where instability over the area would get the little push of moisture it needed to cause precipitation. I learned at a very young age that true lake effect is a phenomenon confined to maybe 25 km downwind from the lakes. Now it seems like any lake enhanced system gets branded ‘lake effect’ by ignorami, with the result being that people in Pittsburgh think they get lake effect snow. I brought it up with some locals in Buffalo a few years ago, and we shared a good laugh.

Mary Brown

re: LeeHarvey
” I learned at a very young age that true lake effect is a phenomenon confined to maybe 25 km downwind from the lakes. Now it seems like any lake enhanced system gets branded ‘lake effect’ by ignorami, with the result being that people in Pittsburgh think they get lake effect snow.”
Lake Effect snowfall happens all the time in the mountains of West Virginia and North Carolina. You might be a little more careful using the term “ignorami”.


@ Mary –
Next time the weatherman in West Virginia or North Carolina is saying that ‘lake effect’ snow is fallling, check the radar map upwind of the Great Lakes and notice that there will be spotty precipitation on the other side of the lakes. That’s the very definition of ‘lake enhanced’ snow.

Six degrees colder than last year – not 6 degress colder than normal. Did the headline writer read the article?

Mike Lewis

Using the chart, the number of degrees cooler than normal for 3 of the lakes is:
3.5 + 2.4 + 1.5 = 7.4 degrees! So the headline should read 7 degrees cooler, not 6. 🙂
That’s the way to do climate science.

Bob Boder

you are one of the founding memebers of the IPCC right?

stewart pid

Mike … unfortunately you are only too right 🙂

Mike Lewis

Yes, and I’m a Nobel Laureate to boot. Oh wait, maybe that’s an Ig Nobel Laureate.


You are right, the headline should be corrected. This first quotation of the article states:
“So Lake Superior is 6.1 degrees colder than this time last year, and 3.5 degrees colder than normal.”


I agree w/Andrew – 6-ish degrees colder than last year, but 1.5 – 3.5 degrees colder than normal/average. Let’s not over-egg the pudding here, folks.


Why don’t people understand that colder temperatures, anywhere and at any time, is really just the negative warming side of global warming?


Leave poor global warming alone! Can’t you see he’s tired and needs a break!


This is the best statement I have ever read.
If Romney would have just stated this in a matter of fact way during a debate …
There would have been Laughter and Tears … It sounds ludicrous …. But it is what liberals believe.


The Great Lakes being colder than average is just a regional variation in the “weather.” Now, if they were warmer than average, it would be due to a changing “climate” and a problem of global concern. Isn’t the difference obvious? /sarc


Year to year it’s always going to be colder or warmer. Things seldom stay the same. That’s called weather. It means nothing in the long term (climate) unless you have predicted that the climate has irreversibly gone into a catastrophic warming spiral, and ice into a corresponding death spiral. Then weather like this makes you looks stupid. Which seems about right.

Data Soong

Thanks, MattN!

Alan Robertson

By those graphs, all the lakes have been cooler than normal for most of the year.
Also, North American snow extent recently set a record high for the date and current Northern Hemisphere snow cover is well above average for date. The 1997/2014 satellite pics on the Snow and ice data page show a very interesting comparison.

two years ago nasa produced a video with warm cool averages in color for the previous year from temps showing my area much above average for march april may and june sorry to had cover garden into june reality below average spring temps so far this year had three frost and no warnings from noaa can we be that naïve


Colder but Drier Winter for us:
We live at the western end of the UP. Our local “weather watcher” (a gal who lives on the Lake Superior shoreline about 10 miles west of us) documented 367 inches of snowfall last year. Given the colder water temperature, I expect this winter to be colder than last year, which should mean the big lake ices over (nearly completely) again, and cuts back on snowfall… I hope. The Old Farmer’s Almanac, equivalent in accuracy with the best climate models, concurs. 😉


I’ll tell my neighbors on the other corner of Michigan to stop bitching about how bad last winter was… considering we set the all time snowfall record, but still only got about a quarter of what you did. Yikes.

367 inches is over thirty feet. Is that right?


Here is a link to a snow gauge on the Keweenaw Peninsula of the UP of Michigan. The total accumulation there was 390 inches in ’78/’79 if I remember correctly.


Yes, 367 inches, nearly 30 1/2 feet… but remember, it don’t all come at once! 😉
I have a pic of my Jeep Grand Cherokee last winter in early February dwarfed by the snow, taken on a road that runs along our beach… the snow literally reached the lamps of the street lights. And our winter did not start off snowy at all… we could still see patches of grass at Christmas, but about the second week in January it started… at one point we had 42 straight days where there was some snowfall.


I was wrong about the date, the above pic was actually taken Jan 31st. We had another three+ months of snow ahead of us.

sleepingbear dunes

Yes. In the 1970s there were several winters with over 300 inches on the Keewanaw peninsula in the UP. In the towns of Houghton and Hancock they have houses with 2nd floor entrance doors. But the “Yoopers” consider it paradise and return for their retirement years if they left for their careers. I know many who have done so.

The oak trees in my yard are producing more than normal amounts of acorns. I expect we are in for a colder than normal winter.

Robert W Turner

I have noticed this for my white oak but I’ve never correlated this to harsh winters. You have a source for this idea or is this merely anecdotal?


I always thought that big berry and fruit crops meant that the weather at fruit setting time in the spring was just right for those particular plants.


large fruiting is I believe a reaction to stress rather than in anticipation of it. So the reason for the large crop of acorns would have been last years hard winter.

Robert Clemenzi

Normals without standard deviations have no value.


Um…no true


I agree with the article mostly because Lake Superior surface temperatures have stayed within the 2009 (very cold year) and 2013 surface temperature curves all year long, but its really hard to draw “degree Fahrenheit” conclusions from Great lakes surface water temperatures because they vary so much. The warm surface temperature layer isn’t very deep, and this time of year the surface temperatures plunge when it is windy and mixes everything up. Then when it gets calm the surface may heat up a few degrees and stay that way for a week or two. Then it plunges again with the next windy storm. So yes the lakes are colder but by how much, it is hard to say. It all depends on how deep the warm surface temperatures are, and we dont have that information. I THINK there is far less surface heat in the lakes than last year, this is just based on anecdotal information from downrigger temperature probes while fishing.

Fred Udo

“So the first impact of cold water could be earlier cold temperatures in November and December.
If the lakes continue through winter colder than normal, freezing over of the lakes would happen earlier.”
Why is it one talks about about colder temperatures? In Holland water can be cold, but temperatures are high or low never cold.


Because English is not Dutch?

Max Totten

Visit http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/indicators for proof that EPA knows no warming last 100 years

Anything is possible

“Potential global warming impacts include reduced water levels (due in particular to decreased winter ice cover allowing more evaporation), increased frequency of intense storm events (altering the timing of inflows), and warmer water temperatures.
Already, Lake Superior has increased water temperatures and an earlier onset of summer stratification by about two weeks in just the past 30 years. Within another 30 years Lake Superior may be mostly ice-free in a typical winter.”


I guess the lakes freezing or nearly freezing over last year, with ice still in superior well into may if not June (I was up there in mid-late May and was still there) I guess we are going to worm up an awful lot soon. Maybe Al Gore has an explanation of why the arctic ice hasn’t melted yet or why there are actually record levels of ice.
I was so looking forward to the balmy weather in the Great Lakes area.


The last Lake Superior ice I personally saw was on June 6th. Between Silver City and Ontonagon, off of M-64.


I guess that’s more heat that’s missing.
But the search must go on. Maybe it;s in the Great Bear Lake. The mounties will find it.


Anthony, the headline needs correction. The lakes may be 6 degrees cooler than last year, but that does not mean they are 6 degrees cooler than “normal”.


True they are about 2-3 degrees below normal.

John Peter

Anthony Watts’ question “How does this cold fact square up in the face of claims of “hottest ever”?” is easy to answer. Just look at how Gavin at NASA managed to create “heat” in Antarctica out of “cold”. http://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2014/10/13/visualizing-how-corrupt-giss-has-become/
Surely, if he can do it there, he can do it anywhere.

The simple fact of the matter is that Gavin and crowd are not being honest. They are giving their masters the answers the masters want and not whatever reality says. Simple as that.

Tom O

If the surface temperature is still cooler, I would guess that the temperature at depth is also cooler, thus there would be less latent heat to hold off the freezing over for any length of time. It would be reasonable to expect that the lakes will freeze over earlier if it is as cold this year as last, and earlier still if the cold comes earlier.

Not so! In fact, the probability is that water at depths below 10 feet has accumulated all the excess heat, rather than leaving it at the surface, and is now approaching 100 degrees F. This makes it feasible to consider tapping that heat to provide municipal heat for all the cities around both Lake Superior and Lake Michigan.

John Pickens

The color graphic should have been in anomaly colors, showing BLUE for divergence from average. If it were warmer than normal, you’d see the anomaly in BRIGHT RED. Gotta get with the program!

….If it were not for the self-sacrificing efforts of algore the great lakes wld have boiled away by now


I am so glad I wasn’t drinking something right there. Nicely done.


Lake levels in the Great Lakes are all above the long term average (after the AGW scare of low lake levels last year). This is with colder water. If the water temperature had been average, I wonder how much higher the levels would be due to thermal expansion?

John Endicott

Obviously, the missing heat from the great lakes is hiding in the deep ocean /sarc

Everette Twining

Not mentioned is that below the “massive heat sink” is an ever larger “…gigantic cold tub…”, which is responsible for pushing whatever warm temperatures there are to those levels intermediate between the top and bottom of what scientists refer to as the “interfernal glacisphere”. And that is what is responsible for the Great Lakes being colder than normal with, of course, more ice than normal. Warmth cools and cold warms. Science is the great educator – never forget that.


Is it just weather or climate?

Anything is possible

Temperatures are below average. That makes it weather.

Jim Doyle

I live in the Great Lakes region and fish lakes in the Western Lake Superior area all spring, summer and fall. I can say this news comes as absolutely no shock considering all lakes I frequent in Central and Northen MN were 5-6 degrees cool all year long at surface and depth. so the brutal winter, extreme lenght of ice cover, late wet spring and cool summer somehow kept the water from heating up to thier normal temps. This is amazing considering in the last 4-5 years forecasters have said they are going to heat up, dry up, be filled with more precipitation and never freeze again.


How can that be? The enviro-wackos tell us everything is warming. Dare I say it? Could they be wrong?

bruce ryan

article needs to be rewritten, “models predict ice cold winter, with a fifty percent chance the lake will never unfreeze again, we are confident the Great Lakes will freeze solid within five years. The economic consequences of climate change deniers is coming home to roost.”
Now they can get a real grant.

Keep an eye out for any interesting trends in Hudson Bay, the epicenter if the Laurentide ice sheet.


Oh, it’s absolutely the hottest year on record. And since the data doesn’t reflect that, then it’s biased and can be corrected to properly conform to model predictions.

Greg Woods

Maybe all that heat is being created by computers running climate models?


I hate to inform you all, because I’ve always been a climate realist, but part of that is accepting the reality that global warming is indeed MAN MADE. Just ask Jones, Hansen and the others who’ve been ‘adjusting’ the records and causing it! Oh, they won’t admit it, but we all know it’s true!

Marty Pants

These are just surface temps. Surely the warmer water has sunk to the bottom, and the colder water has risen to the top……because that is just how things work……………………..or at least how the True Believers think they work.

Of course, especially since cold water is denser than warm water…

Must be free all of that globull warming. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Geesh, globull warming is negatively impacting my Engrish.
Must be “from” all of that globull warming…


Somebody tell Chuck Hagel.


Sadly you climate deniers can not grasp the significance of the cooler water temperatures in the Great Lakes. Just as was mentioned in a prior post with respect to leaving a freezer door open, the cooler temperatures that flow into the Great Lakes’ region create a vacuum effect for warmer temperatures to fill the void in the cool weather origination areas. The weather patterns across North America shift and create giant vortices that deposit warm dry air in the southwestern portion of the US. Thus we have record setting drouts. The southwestern air that would normally result in rainfall will now be swept to the southeastern portion of the US and cause intense rainfall and flooding. The central portion of the US is subjected to the swirling effect of the combined vortices which result in localized weather dysfunction. The northeastern and northwestern contiguous portions of the US are sheltered from the extreme climate change due to their cold water currents providing climate stability. The State of Alaska will endure ravaging weather variations due to the planet Venus being in alignment with Uranus. AGW….what a hoax!


Yeah, and with someone leaving the Great Lakes open and letting all that heat escape, you know somewhere there must be a giant compressor working overtime to cool them back down. Thus causing more warming?

And Jupiter aligns with Mars ….


The lakes help moderate temps downwind in the surrounding areas. Expect those areas to be below avg even if weather is otherwise avg. Hopefully the cold region won’t act as an “attractor” to the polar vortex to the north.

Leon Brozyna

1° … 3° … 7° colder than normal.
Who cares … when winter hits, when it’s cold, it’s cold … and a degree or three difference won’t be noticeable. The only thing that matters is the amount of lake effect snow. The U P of Michigan gets a fair amount of that snow. So too does New York, to the lee of Lake Erie & Lake Ontario.
Buffalo (to the lee of Erie) gets close to 200″ (5 meters) of snowfall, a considerable amount for a major urban area. But that’s nothing to what hits the Tug Hill region of New York (to the lee of Ontario). As just one example, Hooker received an extraordinary accumulation of snow in the winter of 1976-1977, with a total accumulation of 466.9 inches – approximately 39 feet (almost 12 meters).
So the quicker the lakes free over, the quicker the lake effect machine shuts down.

Leon Brozyna

That’s freeze over !!


Last Winter, the watersheds of the Great Lakes had a lot of snow, eventually raising all Great Lakes water levels from inches to a foot and-a-half for Michigan and Huron. When the snow and ice melted, all that water was very cold and contributed to the Great Lakes remaining colder through the late Spring and early Summer. Then there was the ice cube effect with ice remaining, recorded in Lake Superior, into July. We also had a cool summer, winds at times from the near Arctic, and much cloud cover and its albedo effect.
Taken together, there was a lot of heat lost from the Great Lakes waters that allowed ice formation; the spigot for added cold water was from watershed melting snow and ice; the ice cube effect, Arctic winds, and summer cloud cover. Now, Great Lakes colder that normal. No brainer.
What will be interesting, to predict what this winter will be like in the Great Lakes region and their watersheds. So far this fall, magnificent weather: clear and dry. Although not like the Spring & Summer sun, the sunshine from this Fall may warm the Great Lakes sufficiently that we will have a mild winter, considerable lake-effect snow, and limited freeze over. I expect that the Great Lakes water levels would then begin a decline as happened after the 1986 record maximum water levels.
As I have followed the Great Lakes’ water temperatures and levels (prior data not as uniform as it is today) for the last 50 years, still I cannot predict one year nor even a season ahead. The very lowest water levels recorded in Lake’s Michigan and Huron were in 1964 and the very highest water levels were in 1986. 22 year separated the two extremes. Nobody, and I mean nobody predicted such lows or highs and there were a lot of smart people looking at this as there is/was a lot of money (shipping tonnage, dredging, recreational, city water supply, etc.) at stake.
For those in the gambling spirit, there is money to be made by someone in the water level/temperature guesstimate, just not me.


The largest fresh-water lake in the western hemisphere has changed its temperature over 6 degrees in a single YEAR. Apparently great annual temperature changes are not impossible in nature. You have to wonder why the planet has not showed the same wild temeprature excursions – as the IPCC predicted it should.
Maybe – just MAYBE – they were all wrong.


those ice breakers they use, just didn’t get out quick enough.
oh the ice sheets in the arctic and great lakes are not forming, everything is getting Warm! “GLOBAL WARMING! GLOBAL WARMING!”. psssst, uh, the ice sheets are forming… ICEBREAKERS!!!

Sojourner Truth

It’s very sad that every little event in the weather has to be reported and politicized. We live in an era of political madness and a strong delusion. “If something is repeated often enough, people will start to believe it.” Adolf Hitler.


Despite the facts that is not quite the actual quote (but a good paraphrase, I’m not trying to be critical) that people have repeated as being an original quote from Hitler so often that many are programmed to believe it actually was, Goebbels is credited with the accurate form of this particular quote. Not saying Hitler never did use some form of it, mind you, or that his earlier words weren’t somehow at least in part inspiration for it.
For Hitler is credited with ‘the big lie’:
…in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.
Mein Kampf, 1925
Democratic strategy handbook, current.

Joel O'Bryan

“If the lakes continue through winter colder than normal, freezing over of the lakes would happen earlier.”
Which shuts down the Lake Effect Snow on Buffalo and Upstate NY, NE Ohio, Pennsylvania. The bare ground can then freeze to greater depth in a severe cold snap that is more likely to happen this winter.