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Most of the Great Lakes Are Covered With Ice, But Lake Ontario Won’t Freeze Over

Why isn’t Lake Ontario frozen? Record ice coverage is affecting the rest of the Great Lakes, but with one exception.

Lake Ontario has a knack for stubbornly avoiding full ice coverage, even in the midst of a near-record setting year of ice in the Great Lakes region. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) research has revealed that 92.2% of the Great Lakes are covered with ice, closing in on 1994’s record of 94%.

The Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) is working with the NOAA’s CoastWatch to monitor the conditions, and reports current coverage regularly on their website.

RELATED: Three-Quarters of the Great Lakes are Frozen


Image via GLERL/NOAA

The harsh winter, spurned by the “Polar Vortex” everyone has been talking about, has pushed the majority of the Great Lakes into frozen mode, with Ontario as the exception. Why exactly is that?

The Toronto Star asked that same question to Jia Wang, one of GLERL’s ice climatologists. He called Lake Ontario “a very strange lake” in the article.

Three factors were pointed at: Ontario’s depth makes it harder to freeze over; the Niagara River spills into it, agitating the surface; and it is slightly protected from the extremely cold temperatures that have affected other Great Lakes.

RELATED: The Great Lakes Fish Populations Are Hurting More Than You Think

Even though it’s unique situation prevents a total freeze, Lake Ontario still produces some of the most significant lake effect snow seasons anywhere. Warm, unfrozen waters cause heated air to move through the atmosphere above the lake, which causes large amounts of snow. Thanks to this phenomenon, upstate New York receives nearly 100 inches of snow per year.

Do you live anywhere near the Great Lakes? What do you think about the record that may be set this year? Leave your thoughts below.

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Most of the Great Lakes Are Covered With Ice, But Lake Ontario Won’t Freeze Over