Given the cold water going into winter, the current “Ice Breaking Fleet” operating on the Great Lakes may be inadequate this year

A recent WUWT story notes the well below normal water temperature of the Great Lakes, some 6 degrees colder than last year. David DuByne writes, and a video follows:

great-lakes-ice-feb-6-2014With the Great Lakes at 92% ice coverage during the winter of 2013-2014 and far below average water temperatures this year in the lakes, ice will form earlier and last longer into spring. This will have an effect on shipping and delivery of cargo throughout the region disrupting the Great Lakes Economy.

The current “Ice Breaking Fleet” operating around the Great Lakes may be inadequate this year to keep channels open and assist ships trapped in ice. The evidence is all around to convince that the 2014-2015 winter will be the first “cold climate disruption to our economy” and a wake-up call that our infrastructure is vulnerable to the cooling downtrend that may run from 2014-2035.


85 thoughts on “Given the cold water going into winter, the current “Ice Breaking Fleet” operating on the Great Lakes may be inadequate this year

  1. …ice will form earlier and last longer into spring.

    Will form earlier and last longer into spring?
    I’ll agree that signs point to above-average ice cover this winter, but let’s just sit back and watch what happens instead of joining the alarmist chorus.

    • agreed. Lets not fall into the trap of the other side and anticipating results.
      I have mixed feelings myself. Part of me really hopes this is the case, but the more rational part of me can’t help but think about the cost to life and the economy if it does happen.
      Don’t want to fall into the liberal mind set where a nice healthy disaster is fodder for pushing their political views and damn the people who suffer.

      • Right. There’s a good chance of a weak El Nino that could keep mid-continent temps. near or slightly above average. In fact, 2014 could be the warmest year on record globally. Oh wait, I’m not supposed to mention that here…

      • Barry,
        I don’t think anyone minds you saying things as long as they are given a link with which to check so they can see that you may have been mislead by GISS showing Antartica as extra warm and toasty when the temperatures used appear to come from ‘homogenization’ rather than for observations, and at a time when the sea ice extent there is at record levels. Justifiable observation based data yes, observations corrected by models no.

      • Thought you described the conservative mindset very well. As in we need a disaster (a long religious war) and lots of suffering to go with it.

    • Well Joe Bastardi seems to think that this winter will be similar to the last one and that is good enough for me to think that odds are pretty strong we are in for another tough winter in the great lakes region. Lets put it this way. If you had to put big money on it right now; what would your bet be? Mine would be that Great Lakes ice will break last years record.

  2. For most of the past 600 million years the average temperature of the earth has been 22C. Which is the same temperature we find most comfortable to heat our houses. And is the same temperature trees try and maintain their leaves for optimum photosynthesis.
    Thus it makes sense that climate scientists would recommend that we should try and maintain CO2 levels so that the earth’s temperature remains at 22C average. So why are climate scientists and the UN insisting that we need to keep the earth’s average temperature at less than 16.5C?
    Why do we want to maintain Ice Age conditions, even inter-glacial, when the evidence is everywhere that life on earth prefers conditions quite a bit warmer than at present?
    Where is there any scientific evidence that any portion of the earth is too warm to support life so long as there is adequate water? There are lots of places that are too dry, but where is there any place that is too warm if water is present?
    And please don’t try and claim coral bleaching in a result of water that is too warm to support coral, because the warmest waters on earth support the most coral. Bleaching is a temporary effect of temperature change, not of warming. As anyone that has actually lived on a coral reef is well aware. Corals love warm water.

    • Re:- ” So why are climate scientists and the UN insisting that we need to keep the earth’s average temperature at less than 16.5C?”
      According to NOAA/NCDC, the average global surface temperature of the earth between 1961 and 1990 is 16.5°C, and the average global surface temperature of the earth during 1997 is 16.92°C, and every year between 1986 and 1996 has an average global surface air temperature in excess of 16.5°C.
      Given the veracity (NOAA/NCCD)’s published figures, which have not been retracted so far, and also that there has not been a sharp drop in the average global surface air temperature of the earth since 1997, it’s now impossible to keep the average global surface temperature of the earth from rising above 16.5°C.
      On the other hand, according to NASA, nobody has ever even come close to measuring the earth’s overall surface air temperature.
      Given that it is “an obvious practical impossibility” (as per NASA) to measure the earth’s overall surface air temperature, it follows, that nobody has the foggiest idea of the earth’s current average global surface air temperature really is.
      But, perhaps this is a little too sceptical even for those at WUWT — or not, as the case may be.

    • The current reef building corals on Earth actually do prefer ice age conditions because they form Aragonite skeletons. Low magnesium calcite is the biologically preferred polymorph during green house conditions. If the Earth continues to warm then low Mg calcite producing organisms will begin to dominate and form reefs but that’s a long ways off from happening.

  3. What place on earth has the greatest concentration of life? The greatest diversity? The highest growth rates? The equator without the slightest doubt. Left to their own, the tropical jungles of the equator rapidly regrow.
    Yet climate scientists and the UN would have us believe that raising the average temperature of the earth, such that the poles are warmer while the equator remains relatively unchanged, would be bad for life.
    This flies in the face of rational thought. Warming the earth such that more places are like the equator than at present would promote more life and more diversity. Something that can only be good for the environment overall.

    • Nearly half of the total biomass on earth resides in habitats below the earth’s solid or liquid surface.

      • Only half you say.
        With water being over 70% of the earth’s area, and tropical waters the biggest percentage of that water area, and deeper to boot, than the tallest land forests, I would venture that decidedly more than half the bio mass is in the oceans.

      • George, my apologies for lacking clarity. Nearly half “that we know of” the total biomass on earth resides in habitats in the crust or rock below the solid or liquid surface of the earth. Put another way, there is as much microbial life in the rocks of the earth as there is on land and in the sea combined.

  4. The evidence is all around to convince that the 2014-2015 winter will be the first “cold climate disruption to our economy” and a wake-up call that our infrastructure is vulnerable to the cooling downtrend that may run from 2014-2035.
    Not sure this statement is true. After the Seaway was built (old enough to have seen the construction). the shipping season was closed down in the winter. As I recall, it wasn’t until the warmer winters of the late 60s and 70s, that any serious attempt was made to keep the locks and lakes open. The first ship “tophat” ceremony was a much bigger deal back then then it has been the last few years. I think we are just returning to a more characteristic Great Lakes winter, after a generation of lucking out on some delightfully warm winters (relatively speaking). In the Great Lakes basin, we now have a generation of 30 and 40 somethings who have never really had to experience what us old coots remember as a typical winter. Panic abounds, because their lifestyles are built around the convenience of travel in relatively mild seasons, and they now faced with the prospect of not being able to safely commute 50 miles to work everyday. This is not a small thing, BTW – commerce development in the GLB has physically adapted to the warmer winters over the past couple of decades, concentrating business centres away from he diversified base that existed post WWII.

  5. Historically, years with very high ice cover on the great lakes (which should cause colder water in the fall, one would think) are seldom followed by other years of high ice cover.

    • Regression towards the mean. It is the basis for a lot of pseudo science. Something unusual happens, and we take action. Events naturally should be less unusual next time, more average, but we mistaken conclude that our actions caused this regression. Thus, dancing during a drought brings rain, and throwing a virgin into a volcano stops the eruption.
      Thus we get climate science. Adding CO2 causes warming/cooling/drought/rain. Removing CO2 causes cooling/warming/rain/drought. The complete opposite effect, thus CO2 drives climate.

      • My point was that last year’s ice is a poor predictor of this year’s ice. ferdberple thought I meant the opposite.

      • Last years ice is probably a poor predictor, but water temperatures in October probably are a good indicator, all else being equal (which they never are).

  6. Our commercial fishing fleet is down to two fishing tugs, one of which, Seediver, stocks the owner’s restaurant year around. When the ferry gets ice-bound, they call Seediver first. Shove ice in the breakwater is the usual need for USCGC.

    • Doug, what Ferry are you referring to? The Washington Island Ferry used in the winter was designed and build in 2003 as an icebreaker. It weighs 92 tons and has two 1000HP Cat diesels. Are you saying the fishing boat Seediver is used to break ice for the Icebreaker Arni J. Richter during the winter? I’ve never heard that one before.

  7. And what makes the Great Lakes cold? Global Warming. And what warms the Great Lakes? Global Warming.
    But if you can’t reliably predict if the Great Lakes will warm of cool, knowing why it will warm or cool is of no scientific value. It is simply of philosophical value, while is why PhD’s are Doctors of Philosophy.
    However, there is no scientific value in this knowledge to other human beings, because you cannot use it to take action in one way or another, because the Great Lakes would also warm and cool without Global Warming. Regardless of any action we might take to reduce CO2 the potential outcomes remain unchanged. The Great Lakes will either warm or cool either way, so there is no value in taking any such action.
    Only when Global Warming can predict reliably if the Great Lakes will warm or cool next year is there value. In that case we can take action, increase or decrease ice breaking, or reschedule shipping, and thus minimize the disruption to the economy and maximize the efficiency of goods and services for a given level of investment.
    Which explains why Universities are cranking out MA’s while PhD’s are few and far between. Knowing Why something will happen is not nearly as valuable as knowing When something will happen.

    • Ferd, your statement “Knowing Why something will happen is not nearly as valuable as knowing When something will happen” makes no sense. If we know why things happen then we actually do know when it will happen otherwise all engineering is a fail. As an example, I know why steel has certain strength properties. Therefore I know that a 50XK steel grade will fail a tensile test between 50K-65K. If we did not know such things you could not design structure. Same goes for chemical reactions and electricity.
      “When” is also a relative term. We know why the earth experiences periodic ice ages that last 100,000 years with periods of warmth of 10-20,000 years between them. When will the next ice age begin? Somewhere between 500-10,000 years from now.

      • Knowing why is knowing when, yes and no.
        We may eventually know all the factors (five or fifty, anyone’s guess at the moment) that need to combine to create a winter like the last one, the why. But knowing that does still not tell us when they will all combine again to create that sort of winter.
        From which it then follows that we not only need to know all these factors we also need to know what is causing those factors and there could be tens if not hundreds of other factors that need to be in the right order and at the right time to create one of those factors which as we understand it is partial to causing a cold winter.
        Rather different then knowing the strength of steel and what needs to be done to make it stronger or for that matter what makes a polymer softer or harder and how we can change that by adding what and how much. Simple stuff in the scheme of things, manmade actions and reactions.
        I have a reasonable bit to do with both NW Europe and Australia/New Zealand for the last 30 or so years. What I have noticed is that often (not always) when they have a good summer in NW Europe they have a decent winter in NZ (meaning high pressure winter weather). Likewise the other way around a wet Euro summer is often a wet winter there (and of course the other way around). Is there a link, who knows. But it seems to be more then coincidence and yet it can be. But I can now predict when the winter is going to be wet/warm or dry/cold (in relative winter/summer terms) by looking at what is happening on the other side’s summer and I am right most of the time. Got no idea as to the why though and it does not seem to work as well for predicting the Australian/NWEuro patterns.
        Climate is what we have, weather is what we get.

    • What warms the Great Lakes is the sun year in and year out! Even I can reliably predict that. Global warming does not “warm the great lakes”. Given the 18 year pause in global warming at about the .3C? anomaly level, what study shows any difference that has made to the seasonal fluctuations in temperatures of the Great Lakes? What does the number of MA’s to PhD’s have to do with anything? I also never knew that my engineering PhD degree was actually a Doctorate in Philosphy. How does that work?

      • The Ph.D. is a “statement” about all knowledge being based, at the end of the search, on philosophy. The nature of reality. How we perceive it. Etc. etc. It’s a very long discussion, but essentially it is a few hundred year old P.C. sop to the Greek Philosophers and their supremacy in the “what is the basis of all knowing?” game.
        You could just as easily come up with a Dr. of Eng. or similar. LIke M.D. is different (as it is a ‘trade’ so not focused on fundamental truth seeking academia that would justify a Ph.D)…. Or like a J.D. or a D.D…. That’s Doctor of Divinity. BTW “Doctor” has the original meaning of “teacher”. So all Doctorates are really founded in recognition of reaching the level where you can teach others.

      • E.M. Smith writes:

        You could just as easily come up with a Dr. of Eng. or similar.

        A lot of universities throughout the world do grant D.Engr. degrees. Assuming that every doctorate is a Ph.D. is sheer sloppiness.

      • Well my alma mater grants Dr. of Science degrees. Quite rarely, and persons are invited to present themselves for such a degree, but only after they have already become eminent in their area of expertise. One of my high school chums, received a Dr. of Science degree, in Chemistry. He’s an expert in corrosion chemistry of Aluminium alloys, and is Professor Emeritus in Chemistry at our AM.
        A DSc is the only doctoral degree that would in any way interest me (to have). But then I don’t have a specialty to be eminent in.

  8. Until the water gets below 32 degrees, it will not freeze. And we need long stretches of sub-freezing weather to do that. So let’s hope the winter of 2014 – 2015 doesn’t match the winter of 2013 – 2014.

    • Personally, I’m hoping for a duplicate of last years record freeze. It helps restore lake levels and in the long run that allows Great Lakes shippers to carry larger loads.

      • Yah…… Its worse than we thought.
        In my area , just like clockwork, the furnace goes on as the calendar hits Oct 15.
        Just like every year since about 1980, or as long as I have been paying my own hydro bills. No warming yet.
        Still waiting…..

    • They can “homogenize” and “adjust” the ground temps all the want. The satellite data falsifies their current claims and the raw historical data exposes their tampering. Besides, how long can they keep it up? At some point their claims of warming will diverge so greatly from reality that even Mr. Magoo will be able to see their fraud.

      • It only has to fool people until the Paris Treaty meeting in 2015. After that it is hoped that treaties will be set in stone and Western Industry will be exported to India and China.

    • Mpaul, your first problem is you are looking at data. To properly see Global Warming, you have to look at the models.

    • Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.
      I took an engineering seminar at the university called “How to Lie with Statistics”. The intent of the course was to equip newbie engineers with a sense of self-critical analysis and show how stats can be mis-represented or manipulated by the naïve or unscrupulous to create incorrect impressions about the underlying data.

  9. The video contains a deceptive graph. It’s the one comparing two sets of three sunspot cycles.
    The graph compares the three most current cycles with the three leading into the Dalton Minimum. What is deceptive about it is where the current ones end – January 2013. A lot has happened on the sun since then.
    If the presented graph were current, and it should be, it would show the current cycle is much higher than shown. A new solar max has been set for 8 consecutive months and is now at nearly 81.
    That graph is immediately followed by a sun image from dated October 15, 2014.
    The current cycle isn’t anything like Cycle 5, which it’s being compared to by the author. It most closely matches Cycle 12 that peaked in 1893. That one led into the cooling trend of the late 1800s and early 1900s, but which was less severe than the Dalton.
    AGW skeptics need to be a cut above their AGW alarmist counterparts who exaggerate the truth at every turn. The video author comparison to the Dalton boils down into an incorrect exaggeration.

  10. Unless another Polar Vortex drops down in to the USA it is doubtfull that it will be as cold as last year.

    • Please don’t. I was happy to see the P—- V—– meme die last spring. I really don’t want every idiot saying it again this year.

  11. I live near Lake Erie in Ohio and the wooly bear caterpillars all seem to have a black front half with a wide brown stripe behind it extending almost all the way to the end. So I am planning for cold weather at least through New Year’s Day.
    I’m not sure of the accuracy of my forecast, but it will most likely be better than anything coming out of the CRU!

    • The wooly bear thing must be an Ohio concept. Since I grew up in Ohio, every time I see one I recall what I was told as a child. I live in Colorado now. Two weeks ago I saw a solid black sucker crossing the road. I may have run over it with my truck.

  12. Chicago IL had it’s coldest Winter ever last year, going back to 1880. Detroit MI had it’s 3rd coldest WInter ever and snowiest ever.
    What are the odds of having another Winter that cold in the Great Lakes?
    If it’s that cold again, or even close to that cold, we’re in for some very serious problems, especially if coal fired power plants are shut down and electricity for generating residential heating and power proceed on schedule.
    You do NOT want this to happen.
    Last Winter, my analog was 1976/77 but I didn’t pick it until early December.
    1977/78 was also very Wintry for these same locations.
    Will we have back to back cold/snowy Winters again?
    Let’s wait another month and see what pattern emerges very early in the heating season, Mother Nature may tip her hat and give us a clue at that time.
    We have alot of snow in Eurasia, which would provide more intensity to early season cold waves that originate from that location(cross polar type flow or similar steering currents to last year=Siberian express)
    However, if the jet stream is more zonal vs meridional(like last year) and the expected El Nino(weak to moderate) dominates the flow across the US, it can get cold as heck in the higher latitudes but if the flow doesn’t steer that cold southward with gusto, we will end up mild.
    Very warm North Pacific Ocean temps(anomalies) are favorable for cold Winters in the Midwest but those anomalies have weakened in the last month.

  13. A cooling Great Lakes system is of course predicted by global warming models and is consistent with manmade CO2 polluting the atmosphere. lol.

  14. The need for more Great Lakes icebreakers for the coming winter (2014-2015) is predicated upon the conditions and shipping this coming winter will be the same as last winter. Ain’t necessarily so. 2013 Great Lakes water levels where near the record lows of 1964. Low water levels necessitated bulk carriers to carry less tonnage per trip as there was less water under their keels.
    This year, all Great Lakes water levels are above their long term averages. Lake Huron and Michigan are 1 1/2 feet above last year. This means that the bulk carriers carried more tons per trip over this summer and fall heading into winter.
    It is more likely than not that the steel mills and other year around cargo carrier requirements thought sufficiently ahead to have on hand their needs met during this last summer than was possible for the summer of 2013.
    Of course we shall see what we shall see when it comes to Great Lakes freeze over and ice thickness requiring icebreakers. The demand for winter cargo will be less this winter. My guesstimate is that there will be a similar or even less need this winter for icebreakers as last winter, not more.
    The advanced age of the current crop of Great Lakes icebreakers, which take a real beating breaking through ice, is another story. These will have to be replaced sooner than later. If there is a Dalton Minimum-like sun cycle and colder global temperatures, it is likely that the Great Lakes will be impacted by the cold and ice cover coming earlier into the winter and ice thicker. New, and maybe nuclear powered icebreakers are a possibility.

    • That is an interesting observation (the water levels). Since GL water is predominantly melt water, I wonder if this is why they are colder this year?
      Up thread someone seemed to suggest that only one (or two ) of the lakes are significantly colder – any correlation between this and the levels?

      • Rob Potter
        “Since GL water is predominantly melt water, I wonder if this is why they are colder this year?”
        The GL had heat loss when the winter was so cold the GL froze over. The ice lingered in the GL longer as the picture of an iceberg in Lake Superior in early July that Roy Spencer had on his blog demonstrates. This last summer was cooler than the year before with near Arctic winds and albedo cloud cover. And, as you surmised, there was melt water in such volumes that it raised all GL water levels above their historical averages. The GL winter heat loss has to be restored to have water surface temperatures comparable to last years temperatures, plus, the added water from last winters significant snow fall also has to be heated which would occur from clear sky short wave radiation. Both reservoirs of low temperature waters are reflected to one degree or another in present day surface temperatures.
        “Up thread someone seemed to suggest that only one (or two ) of the lakes are significantly colder – any correlation between this and the levels?”
        The deepest lake is Superior and has the lowest temperature in comparison to last year. Lakes Michigan and Huron can be considered as one basin as they are connected by the Straits of Mackinac. They both have some very deep regions as well. Their watersheds are not equal as Lake Michigan, which wasn’t completely frozen over last winter may have warmer surface temperature due to its Wisconsin & Illinois watershed than Huron. Huron’s basic inflow is from Lake Superior and its bitterly cold water along with short regions of coast of Michigan and Canadian Province of Ontario. Lake Erie is shallow; freezes over quickly and thaws quickly and has higher surface temperatures although this summer, at least for a while, was colder than usual. Lake Ontario receives Lake Erie’s water from Niagara Falls as well as having several Southern area watersheds.
        Lake Huron and Michigan are now 1 & 1/2 feet above last years low water levels and have been influenced by their cold watershed at the time and inflows from Lake Superior. The water added which raised water levels above last years water levels, that water had temperatures which were very cold and continue to this day reflected in present day surface temperatures.
        Does this help?

  15. Well, so far the indications are for a colder than average winter in the plains and east coast (warmer than average west of the Rockies). So if we have a colder than average winter with lake temperatures already starting off lower than normal, it wouldn’t seem like much of a stretch to expect the lakes to freeze earlier than normal and stay frozen later than normal. I don’t think that is being “alarmist” so much as it is a combination of current reality plus current short-term (winter season) forecast models for North America.

  16. It’s probably easier to predict an El Nino than to predict the weather out to 6 or 7 months.
    Now about that overdue Nino … miss a prediction by a year or more and when/if if finally comes …. well one could say they predicted it was coming. Miss a winter season by a few months and well … you totally missed it.
    It’s most likely a fools errand to make these kind of predictions as to the weather over a winter or summer season. But I would not discount D’Aleo or Bastardi. As it may be the best guess, I wouldn’t bet on it.

  17. Last year was very windy and cold through the beginning of the year. That is what removed the lakes heat, wind AND cold. We’re a little colder than last year but not much, we need windy and cold again to match last years epic freezing.

  18. Despite the surety of the video, maybe because of it, I’ll take a cautious approach.
    It goes something like this:
    “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans.”

  19. For all the folks saying not to predict….
    Please note that many industries must, of necessity, predict. Farmers, shipping, road salt buyers and makers, and on it goes. So it is absolutely essential that Weathermen make predictions. Even long range predictions. My co-worker is about to have a cross Atlantic voyage by ship. Weather prediction months in advance was criticl for both the buyer of the ticket, and the operator of the ship. The Captain will consult long range weather predictions in planning a course and stocking fuel. The list is long.
    So, IMHO, predict away. Just remember that it pays to be correct…

  20. My Dad talked of driving on foot thick ice on Lake Erie in the 50’s, and before refrigerators, they use to cut it and store it in ice houses till summer.

  21. Maybe we could start a lottery similar to the Nenana Ice Classic in Alaska.
    (what will be the % of ice coverage of the 5 Great Lakes), and you would have to include the date of maximum ice coverage to eliminate ties.
    My guess is 89% this year – I will bookmark this page to see if I’m right.
    From their website:
    “The Nenana Ice Classic is a Non-Profit Charitable Gaming Organization.
    The proceeds from ticket sales benefit many organizations including but not limited to.
    Special Olympics of Alaska
    Fairbanks Rescue Mission
    Nenana Public Library
    Nenana Valley Visitor Center
    Nenana Public School
    Nenana Senior Center
    2 Scholarship programs
    And to many other groups”

  22. The lakes should freeze earlier and in turn reduce lake effect snow during winter. I wonder whether this will produce a see-saw, where reduced albedo leads to higher temperatures in the spring.

  23. USCG Response to this post.
    @NJSnowFan The prospect of a tough winter is why we’ve developed a close partnership with @CCG_GCC. Together we’ll keep the lanes clear.
    5:00pm – 16 Oct 14

  24. Regarding reduced albedo (less snow) from lakes freezing, when the lakes freeze the clouds go away and nighttime temperatures plunge from radiatve cooling to space. Imagine the huge area of clear space over the lakes and how much heat can radiate to space at night. Frozen lakes … 3% of the United States area … essentially become a desert until they break up .. It probably gets colder not warmer when the lake freeze. The existing snow thickness on land shrinks but gets colder and harder to melt. How cold? My Michigan parents neighbor had water well problems last year over Memorial Day weeked and the problem was the ground was still frozen 9 feet down.
    Fortunately, snow never wins, the longer daytime of spring aways wins (so far).

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