Will 2018 Great Lakes Annual Maximum Ice Coverage be less than 1973-2017 minimum of 11.9%?
Great Lakes ice can be a bad thing, especially for shipping: a week before Christmas, a freighter carrying 17,000 tons of coal got stuck on thick ice on Muskegon Lake. This meant Consumers Energy had to cancel its last two coal shipments of the winter.
On the plus side, ice has the benefit of raising water levels in the Great Lakes. Alan Steinman of the Annis Water Resources Institute explains, "When you have more ice formation, you have less direct contact with the atmosphere, less opportunity for evaporation and that keeps the water levels up."
For the last 20 years with lower ice coverage, more water had evaporated, contributing to the low water levels seen last year. "We were setting records for the lowest water level in recorded history," explains Steinman.
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