The Great Lakes ice is finally gone, marking a winter that stretched from November to just 10 days before the start of summer.
Large chunks of ice left over from the frigid winter remained on the lakes well into the spring, with the last holdouts floating in the waters of Lake Superior near Marquette, Michigan. The floating ice chunks made a strange backdrop for swimmers who took to the water on a warm Memorial Day.
This week the Great Lakes ice was finally gone, melted away in temperatures that reached into the 80s for several days.
This was a brutal winter for many areas in the Great Lakes. At one point the lakes were 92 percent covered by ice, the second most since climatologists began keeping records. Many cities also saw large snowfalls, including Detroit where many records for snow were broken.
The cold weather was due largely to the Polar Vortex, which brought frigid air from the upper reaches of Canada throughout the United States. This system dipped into the United States at various points, bringing sub-zero temperatures and frigid winds that led several areas to warn people from venturing outside.
The ice first appeared on lakes in November, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration noted. The U.S. Coast Guard was busy this winter tying to keep the lakes navigable, putting in more than 2,000 hours of ice-breaking operations.
Though the Great Lakes ice is finally gone, climatologists say the effects of the frigid winter will continue into the summer, USA Today noted. A research team at the University of Michigan estimated that sections of Lake Superior will remain 6 degrees colder into August, which when combined with warm air will create giant banks of fog.
“It’s going to be the summer of fog,” explained Peter Blanken, an investigator from the University of Colorado. “[Lake Superior’s] water will stay really cold, but summer air tends to be warm and humid. And any time you get that combination, you’re going to have condensation and fog—basically evaporation in reverse.”
“We saw the ice as early as November 25 and now into June,” NOAA scientist George Leshkevich told the Washington Post. “In terms of duration I would think it’s up there, if not at the top of the chart [in the historic record].”
Though the Great Lakes ice is finally gone, the arrival of summer means days are getting shorter and residents of the region are once again moving toward winter.