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JANUARY 3, 2008    

Really cold

Ice patches on Lake Erie near shoreIt's been cold enough the last couple of days that ice is beginning to form on Lake Erie. You can see the patchy areas near shore at Edgewater Park.

At about 5 pm the temperature was 19 degrees F (about -7 C), cold enough that when I took my gloves off to snap a picture I felt the effects for several minutes after.

This made me wonder whether there was usually ice on the lake on January 3rd, so of course I googled the question. In the way that the Internet so often works, it took me quite a bit of searching to find what I really wanted while traveling down numerous side information-alleys.

I learned that there is a National Ice Center which surprisingly didn't have the answer I needed. Eventually I got to the NOAA Great Lakes Ice Atlas which did.

Ice cover chart for Lake ErieThe data covers only the period from 1975 to 2002, but is wonderfully detailed. You can find out the First Ice, Last Ice, and Ice Duration for ice concentrations from 10% to 90%, year by year or—as shown in this chart—as a composite for the entire period. It looks like on average Cleveland's area of the lake generally ices over completely in late January. Doesn't look like that will happen this year since the prediction is for 50 degree weather by Sunday.

A great feature of the Ice Atlas is a large collection of color-coded map animations that show the ice cover advancing and retreating over the winter. Fun to watch.

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