Lake Superior ice continues to form despite howling winter winds
Photo By: Craig Hill
Outdoor News

Lake Superior ice continues to form despite howling winter winds

The pounding cold of winter continues along the North Shore as February crawls toward its conclusion. Despite an abundance of cold days to start 2022, Lake Superior ice has taken more of the ‘come-and-go’ approach in and around Grand Marais and other nearby communities.

One reason for the general lack of ice in this stretch of the North Shore has been consistently strong winds, according to Craig Hill, a University of Minnesota Duluth professor.

“Wind does play a role in ice cover on lakes, including how much ice there is and the movement of whatever ice there is,” he said.

Meanwhile, data shows that ice is forming on other parts of the lake, including the so-called ‘ice bridge’ from Isle Royale to the mainland near Grand Portage.

Coinciding with what is typically the peak of the ‘ice season’ on the Big Lake, the Associated Press reports that some researchers are wondering about what’s happening in the Great Lakes during those long, frigid months when they’re often covered partially or completely with ice? A casual observer — and even experts — might be inclined to say, “Not much.”

Lake scientists have long considered winter a season when aquatic activity slows. Most do their field studies at other times of year.

But researchers now think more is going on in the bitter depths than previously believed — including activity influenced by climate change. To learn more, teams will venture onto the frozen surfaces of all five lakes this month to collect water samples and other information from below the ice.

“We’ve been ignoring winter on the Great Lakes for so long,” said Ted Ozersky, a lake biologist with the University of Minnesota Duluth, who announced the “Winter Grab” expedition earlier this month.

“There are lots of ways in which ice and winter conditions can affect the ecosystem. We don’t fully understand all of them. We have a general idea of how it should work but in many cases we haven’t done the footwork to see,” Ozersky said.

Crews from more than a dozen U.S. and Canadian universities and government agencies will make their way onto frozen sections of lakes Erie, Huron, Michigan, Ontario and Superior during the week of Feb. 14. That’s typically around the time of maximum ice cover.

WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs recently traveled to Duluth to speak with UMD Professor Hill on the shoreline of Lake Superior. Audio below.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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