Record ice build-up on Great Lakes likely to affect temperatures, gray wolves

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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that more than 60 percent of the Great Lakes' surface is now covered by ice. As the deepest and waviest of the lakes, Lake Superior takes the longest to freeze. But even Lake Superior is 57 percent frozen.

The Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan, says the 2014 ice cover is the greatest in at least 25 years. The lab publishes data daily about the ice build-up and its significance. It says the ice cover this winter is a stark contrast to last winter, when the five lakes had only 38 percent cover. The long-term average of the lakes is about 50 percent.

One effect of so much ice this winter is that come summer the "lake effect" in Duluth could be even cooler. The ice cover could also help sustain lake levels through the summer.

Meanwhile, biologists are hoping that an ice bridge may link Ontario to Isle Royale, providing new genetic material and more wolves to the struggling population of gray wolves on the island.

Another benefit of Lake Superior's ice cover is that, for the first time in many years, visitors can walk to the underwater ice caves along the Apostle Islands. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore officials say the precipitation and cold temperatures are making the most dramatic ice formations in 30 years. Photographer Bryan Hansel's Facebook page has spectacular photographs of his visits there.

WKZO says the ice cover will expand through February, which will mean more sunshine, less lake-effect snow, but colder temperatures.

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