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Ice coverage on lakes is lower than average due to unusual winter weather

A thin sheet of ice covers parts of Mullet Lake on Jan. 13.
Teresa Homsi
A thin sheet of ice covers parts of Mullet Lake on Jan. 13.

So far in 2023, Northern Michigan has seen what could be the second warmest January on record for the last century. That’s why ice coverage on the Great Lakes is currently far lower than the historical average.

The Great Lakes are beginning the new year with ice coverage of just under 6%. That's about four times lower than the average for this time of year.

Michael Boguth is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gaylord. He says the lower ice coverage may result in more winter lake-effect precipitation and lower lake levels.

“We had a really cold spell for like three days centered on Christmas, and that was it," Boguth said. "Since then, we've been above normal almost every day. Those temperatures just aren't conducive to produce a good ice pack on the Great Lakes.”

The DNR and local law enforcement warn people to avoid traveling out on thin, unsafe ice.

Historical and daily data of ice cover on the Great Lakes can be found at NOAA's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

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