Great Lakes likely to have most Ice since Records BeganAs much of the eastern U.S. freezes in a bitter February cold snap, so too do the Great Lakes, which are now more than 85 percent covered in ice. With outlooks pointing to continued cold through the month, the potential grows for the Great Lakes to see one of the iciest years on record. With a total ice cover of 85.4 percent, the lakes have now surpassed where they were at this time last year. After a brutally cold winter across the eastern U.S. in 2014, the Great Lakes went on to set the second-highest ice cover on record — 91 percent — since monitoring began in the 1970s. Ice lingered in Lake Superior through Memorial Day last year — and it was even more surprising that it was still there as record highs were being broken in the Midwest. The record-highest ice extent occurred Feb. 19, 1979, when 94.7 percent of the network was covered in ice. With 82.6 percent coverage, Lake Ontario seems primed to meet or exceed its record ice extent: 85.7 percent, set in 1979. Lake Erie is a popsicle with more than 98 percent of the lake covered in ice. As the shallowest lake in the network, it has reached full ice coverage three times on record, in 1978, 1979 and 1996. Erie’s ice cover sky-rocketed in January, climbing from ice-free to 88 percent coverage in just a couple of weeks. While it’s difficult to know for sure whether the Great Lakes will reach record ice cover this year, it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility given the outlook for below-normal temperatures in the next few weeks. On Wednesday, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center was forecasting a high chance of below-average temperatures toward the end of the month across a huge portion of the eastern United States. The center is also suggesting that the chill could last through March over the Great Lakes and Northeast, injecting more confidence into the forecast for record-setting Great Lakes ice. MORE