SYRACUSE, NY (WSYR-TV)- This week for Storm Team Academy we’re talking about ice on the Great Lakes!

As of February 17, about 40% of ice was present on The Great Lakes. Just one month ago, there was only 2% of ice on the five lakes combined! Most notably, the shallowest lake, Lake Erie nearly froze completely. All this ice accretion happened with the February cold.

Ice coverage on the Great Lakes does vary year to year. This time last year, there was hardly any ice on the lakes and Lake Erie was far from frozen over.

Some years you’ll have more and some less but the overall average is going down. Since 1980, the average maximum ice trend has gone from about 70% to about 40%.

Less ice means more open water and the potential for more lake effect snow, rain and clouds. More open water also means less protection for the shoreline. More open water could cause higher evaporation rates too which in the long term could bring water levels down. That could improve flooding initially but it could pose long term problems in the decades to come.

For a look at current ice conditions, click here.