Ice coverage on Great Lakes reaches 91 percent

March 6, 2014 at 3:44 PM
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OTTAWA, March 6 (UPI) -- Ice coverage on the Great Lakes has reached 91 percent, which may cause Canada to have a cool and dry summer, scientists say.

This year has seen the second largest amount of ice cover ever recorded on the Great Lakes after 1973, when ice cover reached 93.9 percent, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported Thursday.

Along with affecting summer conditions, the ice-covered lakes could cause upstream flooding along rivers that feed into them if the ice doesn't begin to melt soon, experts said.

"If temperatures stay low, the ice will be around into the early spring -- in the teens or the lower twenties (Fahrenheit) -- that could prolong the ice on the lakes," said George Leshkevich, a scientist with the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. "The longer the ice is on the lakes it can delay the warming period."

Lake temperatures staying low also affects how much water is evaporated, Leshkevich said.

"Temperature can affect evaporation ... so the water levels could go up the following year," said Leshkevich.

"There is a very good chance of flooding," said Hazel Breton, Water Resource Engineer for the Hamilton Conservation Authority. "The Red Hill Creek is a flashy system and reacts very quickly."

Ice jams, which happen when large pieces of ice get caught in shallow water, quickly build up and make it difficult for water to pass through, and could cause major flooding and make it difficult to get warnings out in a timely manner.

Scientists said the ice cover on the Great Lakes has likely peaked for this year, but that spring rains may also contribute to flooding.

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