DULUTH, Minn. — Time is running out this winter for Lake Superior to ice over or even build enough ice to jig for lake trout off Duluth or walk to the sea caves near Bayfield.
Lake Superior was only an estimated 14 percent ice-covered as of Wednesday, Jan. 31, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. The office uses temperature-sensing satellite data to estimate ice cover.
A warmer, windy trend over the past two weeks has helped keep the big lake from forming more ice.
Satellite photographs from Wednesday morning show little solid or "fast" ice on the western half of the big lake — only some broken ice near the Twin Ports and little or no ice near Isle Royale. There was apparent ice cover around most of the Apostle Islands and Chequamegon Bay. Clouds were obscuring the eastern portions of the lake.
Shallow Lake Erie leads the Great Lakes at about 55 percent ice cover, although that's down from more than 90 percent during the cold snap two weeks ago.
Across the Great Lakes, only about 24 percent of the water is ice-covered. That's up a bit from last year's warm winter but down from the long-term average of 30 percent for the beginning of February. The highest Great Lakes ice cover at this point of winter in recent years was 65 percent in 2014, the Polar Vortex winter.
There's still plenty of time for more ice to form, however, and a stubborn cold wave is expected for the next two weeks. A huge pool of unusually warm air is stuck over Siberia, leading to record warm temperatures there but forcing North Pole air down into central North America. That push is expected to keep the Northland noticeably colder than normal through early February, according to the National Climate Prediction Center.
Temperatures for the next two weeks are expected to be well below normal for all the Great Lakes region with some models showing bouts of below-zero temperatures through Valentine's Day for northern Minnesota.