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    Great Lakes Finally Ice-Free After Record Ice Longevity

    By By Kristen Rodman, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
    June 13, 2014, 5:41:00 PM EDT

    With summer just around the corner, the Great Lakes are officially free of ice for the first time in seven months.

    While only weeks ago, chunks of ice could be seen floating on the lakes as residents and visitors flocked to the waters for Memorial Day, as of June 6, the lakes were classified as ice-free.

    "This year is the longest we've seen ice on Lake Superior in our 40 years of records," Physical Scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration George Leshkevich said.

    Following one of the coldest winter's on record for the region with temperatures from Jan. 1 to April 1 averaging seven degrees below normal, the Great Lakes hit their second highest ice coverage on record, reaching 92.19 percent on March 6, 2014.

    Moving into the spring season, more than one-third or 38 percent, of the Great Lakes remained covered in ice in mid-April, causing major problems for the steel industry as the business relied on the waterways for shipping and transporting goods and materials.

    "There are no years in the last 30 years that are even close to that, so it's very unusual this late in the season to have that much ice coverage," AccuWeather.com Lead Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok said.

    The last time the ice coverage on the lakes lasted nearly this long was in 2003, when the last of the ice cleared on May 29, according to Leshkevich.


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    However, moving farther into the spring season, temperatures began to increase in May, aiding in diminishing the ice coverage on the lakes.

    "The air temperature, currents of the water and the water temperatures all play apart in melting the ice," Public Affairs Specialist for the 9th Coast Guard District in Cleveland, Levi Read said.

    Since May 1, average temperatures in the Ironwood, Michigan, region have trended slightly above normal with daytime highs in the low 70s and overnight lows in the low 50s.

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    Aside from rising temperatures across the area, the Coast Guard has been working hard since the beginning of December to break up the ice on the lakes, according to Read.

    About a month longer than normal, the service finished ice breaking in the middle of May, Read stated.

    Despite the increase in temperatures for the areas surrounding the lakes, the longevity of the cold and the extent of the ice coverage so late into the spring will hinder water temperature recovery.


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