During the wee night hours of February 5/6, the magic of a cold winter night froze the water along Lake Superior’s North Shore. This morning I woke to the sun bouncing dramatically off of the clear, freshly formed skim. I could hear the zinging and singing of the ice growing and shifting under the bright sun and cold skies.
The North Shore is typically one of the last places Lake Superior freezes. Deep water and north-west winds keep the lake open longer here than in places like the Duluth’s St.Louis Bay. This December and January’s cold temperatures and heavy winds cooled the lake down earlier than normal. The lack of wind and sub zero temperature last night provided the finishing touches to complete the world’s biggest freshwater skating rink.
The last time Lake Superior froze over 100 % was the winter of 1996 and 1997. The lake’s temperature has measured on the very warm side in recent years. This warm water has both cut down on ice formation and also increased the evaporation of water from the lake. The resulting low water levels and warm water have created challenges for fish and people. Boats have more difficulty traveling to their docks, and the fish’s normal habitat is changed. This year’s cold air, water and ice cover should be a welcome change for the plants and animals living in and around Lake Superior.
Check out the ice from land, but be aware that the in many places it is too thin to support a person’s weight. You also need to pay attention to wind as it can blow the ice free of the shore line in a very short time. Lets hope the weather continues to freeze the current skim into a deep layer of strong, walkable ice. Maybe we can go we can go skating in the near future!
– Peter Harris