Ice caves near Wisconsin
Photo by Eric Miller

Ice formation on the Great Lakes the earliest on record


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It’s official. Winter is coming.

We can feel it in the air, smell it in the trees, and see it as it gleefully buried the city of Buffalo under its thick white blanket of snow.

And although it’s too early to tell if we’re going to be crushed by the Polar Vortex once again this winter, if we’re looking at the Great Lakes for any indication, the prognosis does not look good.

In the four decades since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been keeping track of ice coverage, this year marks the earliest that ice has ever formed on any of the Great Lakes.

On November 15, ice formed on Lake Superior, now forever known as the Dawn of the New Ice Age. On that fateful day, the temperatures in nearby Sault Ste Marie plunged to a brisk -10 C.

Last winter, ice coverage across all the Great Lakes was the second-highest on record, with 92.2 percent of the lakes covered by ice. The largest ice coverage to date occurred in 1978-1979, when 95 percent of the Lakes were frozen in mid-February.

But all this ice has one upside. The breathtaking ice caves of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin may once again be reachable by foot.

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