Share this article

print logo

'Unfrozen': Lake Erie's warmth, lack of January ice rivals the ice-free season of 2011-12

Lake Erie was 33 degrees warmer than the air Tuesday morning.

The difference was so stark that you could watch the water evaporating off the lake in a unique phenomenon that's often referred to as "sea smoke" when it happens on the ocean.

Lake Erie was 40 degrees on a 7-degree Tuesday morning in Western New York. (T.J. Pignataro / Buffalo News)

Lake Erie was 40 degrees on a 7-degree Tuesday morning in Western New York. (T.J. Pignataro / Buffalo News)

Although ice crystals could be seen forming on the surface of the shallowest areas near shore, Lake Erie remained more than 99 percent ice-free -- the most on Jan. 5 since 2012 when the lake never froze.

iceJAN5

The 40-degree reading Tuesday was also the warmest the lake has been at Buffalo since 2007.

When compared against the last two winters, Lake Erie and the Great Lakes at large are warmer and drastically less covered with ice as of the first week in January.

Jan. 5, 2016: Less than 2 percent of the Great Lakes are ice covered this year. (NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory)

 

 

More than 10 percent of the lakes were ice-covered last year. (NOAA GLERL)

Jan. 5, 2015: More than 10 percent of the lakes were ice-covered. (NOAA GLERL)

 

Two years ago, nearly 40 percent of Lake Erie was already ice covered as of Jan. 5 heading into the first of two blizzards that winter. (NOAA GLERL)

Jan. 5, 2014: Nearly 40 percent of Lake Erie was ice covered on Jan. 5 heading into the first of two blizzards that winter. (NOAA GLERL)

 

All of that is due to Buffalo's warmest December on record.

The 42.1-degree average temperature for December 2015 was 12 degrees warmer than average in Buffalo and obliterated the former record of 37.6 degrees set in 1923.

tempJAN5

It also allowed December 2015 to set the all-time mark in Buffalo for least snowfall - just one measly inch. The previous record was shared by a pair of years back in the 19th century.

There was 1.1 inch in December 1889 and 1891.

The 4.1 inches of snowfall to date in Buffalo for the 2015-16 winter season is the lowest total since the winter of 2011-12.

That year of the unfrozen lake ended with 36.7 inches of snow for the season. It was Buffalo's lowest snow total since 1919 and the third-lowest ever in Buffalo.

snowJAN5

After a return to above-normal temperatures for the balance of this week, the weather pattern is expected to make a turn toward more wintry conditions next week, according to forecasts.

Given the open waters of the lake, it could also set up the possibility for significant lake-effect snow accumulations if other atmospheric conditions like moisture and wind direction line up just right.

 

 

There are no comments - be the first to comment