How much ice is on Lake Ontario?: Dave Longley's Blog

January 2014 is 2.8° below normal for Syracuse. We've had 6 days with a low below zero and 4 days where the high temperature failed to get out of the single digits. Here's a look at the ice cover on Lake Ontario.
(WSYR-TV, Syracuse) As people east of Lake Ontario seeing 2 feet or more of fresh lake effect snow out their windows today can attest to, there is still plenty of open water on Lake Ontario.  I wouldn't want to take a dip in the lake though.  It's been tough to get a good read on the lake temperature, as we use satellite information, and there have been plenty of clouds, but it looks like on average the lake temperature is in the upper 30s.  I thought we might get an image today, but there is still quite a bit of cloudiness over the lake.


Temperatures in the upper 30s are the coldest the lake has been in the past 5 years.  The squiggly black line in the lower left hand corner of the image shows the average lake temperature through the month of January.  Click on this to get the line chart.

So, bottom line, there isn't much in the way of ice on Lake Ontario.  I've got a couple more images for you.  The first one is the ice cover on Lake Ontario from Tuesday morning, January 28th.

As you can see, most of the ice is crammed into the northeast corner of the lake and right along the shoreline.  We've still got a long way to go, with the average ice concentration of Lake Ontario at 21%.

We've gotten e-mails and facebook questions as to when or how often does Lake Ontario freeze over.  Fact of the matter is, it almost never does.  It's too big and deep of a lake and it's far enough south in latitude that it's tough to ice up.  That means we will continue to see lake effect snow off of Lake Ontario through February, and perhaps even into March.  The thing is, as the lake temperature cools, the air crossing Lake Ontario needs to be even colder.  The availability of sufficiently cold air is smaller and smaller as we head through winter.

One last image.  This is a plot of the annual maximum ice coverage on Lake Ontario over the past 40 years.  Looks like the highest coverage was in 1979.

I have a few more images on my Facebook page.  I put all sorts of images and information there, so be sure to like it.  Also, if you have any questions you can post them there or e-mail me at davelongley@localsyr.com
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