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Great Lakes More Ice-Covered Than Last February

CHICAGO (CBS) -- For the second consecutive winter, the Great Lakes are almost completely covered with ice, due to the frigid weather.

Ann Clites, a scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab, said the lakes have more ice now than they did at this time during last year's brutal winter.

"The basin is 85 percent ice-covered right now, and Lake Michigan is at 62 percent," she said.

Researchers said the ice is up to four feet thick toward the middle of Lake Michigan.

Last year at this time, the lakes were 61.9 percent covered in ice, but by early March, they were 92.5 percent covered in ice.

Clites said there are a few reasons there is more ice on the lakes this year than the same time as last year.

First, of course, is the extended cold weather. Second, all the ice that formed last year could still have an effect on the lakes, even though it had long since melted before this winter.

"The lakes were so ice-covered last year, and perhaps that's contributing to a faster ice development this year," she said.

Another factor is there was a bit of a warm spell last February, cutting back on ice coverage.


Last March, Lake Michigan broke a record for ice coverage, when 93.3 percent of the lake's surface was frozen.

Thick ice coverage on the Great Lakes also means less water is able to evaporate, so water levels on the lakes will be higher once the ice melts in the spring.

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