For the second year in a row, the Great Lakes are freezing over at greater than normal pace. The bitter cold in the eastern half of the U.S. as well as colder than normal temperatures recently in our neck of the woods, are turning the lakes' surfaces into vast frozen plains.
As of Friday, nearly 81 percent of the five lakes' surface area is covered with ice, the federal Great Lakes research laboratory in Ann Arbor, Mich., said, according to the Associated Press.
Satellite photos show the ice cover has grown quickly, nearly doubling in just the past couple of weeks, the AP notes.
Last year, by the end of March, the ice covered 92.2 percent of the Great Lakes' surface. The most widespread freeze was in 1979, when it reached 94.7 percent.
FOX 9 notes it's the first time since the late 1970s that 80 percent or more of the lakes have been covered in ice in back-to-back years.
Last year was the first time that ice covered more than three quarters of the lakes in the 21st century, and now we have done it 2 years in a row.
And just as last year's bitter cold winter led to a late-coming, cooler-than-normal spring, the same thing may occur this year, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“By April or May, usually the ice is gone,” George Leshkevitch, a scientist with the research laboratory, told the Tribune. “Last year, we had ice throughout May, and even lingering into June. If that happens again, we’re likely to have a cool spring."
Of course if the ice lingers that long, it's also likely the temperatures are still cooler than normal.
Looking forward to spring, the monthly National Weather Service long-term forecasts issued last week said the Midwest has an above-average chance of a cold March, followed by a warmer than usual April, May and June.