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Seasonal Summary for the Great Lakes - Winter 2010- 2011

Lake Erie

Temperatures over Lake Erie were near normal in the first half of November and above normal in the second half of the month. Cold air spread over Lake Erie in early December; the month of December turned out to be abnormally cold.  Ice started forming in Sandusky Bay, in Long Point Bay and along the eastern shore of Lake St. Clair in the second week of December; that was one to two weeks early. In the third week of December Lake St. Clair became ice covered. Also at that time, the Western Basin also became ice covered and ice extended eastward from the Western Basin to almost 82W. Narrow bands of ice started forming along the south shore of the lake and along the north shore west of Long Point. Also in the third week of December, ice in Sandusky Bay became consolidated and fast ice started forming in Long Point Bay, both events about three weeks earlier than normal. Ice developing along the south and north shores and spreading east of the Western Basin this early in the season is quite unusual and is seen in 15 percent or less of the years since 1972. 

Milder temperatures were reported for a brief period in late December and early January; the ice coverage on Lake Erie in early January returned to near normal; it had been above normal during the second half of December. Cold temperatures prevailed over Lake Erie from early January to mid-February. During that time, ice coverage on Lake Erie was above normal.

Most of Lake St. Clair became consolidated early in the second week of January; this was unusual. Usually, fast ice appears about two weeks later and often ice on the lake does not consolidate completely.

Most of Lake Erie, except for an open water area around Long Point, became ice covered in the third week of January. The lake became completely ice covered at the end of January. Ice in the approaches to Buffalo consolidated at around that time.  The Western Basin also became consolidated for a brief period at the end of January. That it would consolidate completely is an unusual event. The extent of the fast ice near Buffalo was surprisingly large. Fast ice extent near Buffalo became closer to normal less than a week later.             

Milder temperatures and stormy weather occurred around mid-February. Winds pushed the ice off the eastern end of Lake Erie and reduced the ice coverage to near normal values.

 On the whole temperatures from the last week of February to mid-March were slightly below normal and ice coverage over Lake Erie remained above normal.  However spring was approaching and temperatures were on the rise; ice extent on Lake Erie was decreasing with each passing storm. Wide leads opened along the shores of Lake Erie at the end of the first week of March and fast ice in Lake St. Clair started breaking up. Break-up in Sandusky Bay also happened at that time, a few days earlier than normal.

Temperatures rose to above normal right after mid-March. A cold snap hit Lake Erie in the last week of the month. By the end of the third week of March the Western Basin was almost clear of ice and the western third of Lake Erie was open water. Break-up started near Buffalo at that time. Clearing of the ice on Lake Erie and break-up of the ice near Buffalo were occurring a few days to a week later than normal. Fast ice had broken up completely in Lake St. Clair but a lot of ice was still present. The Western Basin finally cleared in the last week of the month.

April temperatures were above normal. Lake St. Clair cleared in late March- early April, one to two weeks later than normal.  Ice near Buffalo melted in the last week of April, about two weeks later than normal.

Weekly ice coverage for Lake Erie
Figure 9: Weekly ice coverage for Lake Erie [Data]

Total accumulated ice coverage for Lake Erie
Figure 10: Total accumulated ice coverage for Lake Erie [Data]