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Lake Erie is 13% frozen, expect less freezing in the future

The USS Cod sits docked with broken ice on the surface of Lake Erie.
Annie Wu
Ideastream Public Media
The U.S.S. Cod docked in North Coast Harbor on an icy Lake Erie.

Lake Erie is behind its typical freezing schedule.

The schedule depends on different weather patterns, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Director of Communications Jennifer Day.

"Currently, about 13% of the lake is frozen," Day said. “Just to give a little comparison, just three days ago it was 0.5%."

The recent cold snap has helped freeze Lake Erie at a faster pace, Day said. If temperatures warm, it can thaw just as quickly.

Global warming plays a role in Lake Erie’s winter conditions. Over the last 50 years, NOAA reported ice on the Great Lakes has decreased by 5% each decade.

“That may not seem like a lot, but over the last 50 years we have seen that significant trend decreasing in the amount of ice we're getting," Day said.

Less ice means more erosion from waves crashing along the shorelines, increased chance of lake effect snow and a negative economic impact.

"The ice fishing, hockey, other activities that happen on the ice are really important to the local economy especially in the wintertime," Day said.

Ice isn’t the only factor affecting Lake Erie due to global warming trends. A 2021 study, Climate Change Indicators: Great Lakes Water Levels and Temperatures,from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, found that warmer surface temperatures in the Great Lakes have resulted in lower water levels.

“Lower water levels in the Great Lakes forced ships to reduce their cargo tonnage by 5 to 8% between 1997 and 2000, which increased shipping costs," according to the report. “Lower water levels can also affect water supplies, the usability of infrastructure such as docks and piers, and shoreline ecosystems."

Josh Boose is associate producer for newscasts at Ideastream Public Media.