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12/28/2008

The ice cometh, earlier than usual

Minnesota, USA
Ice has formed on Lake Superior off the Twin Ports and near Bayfield, among other places. It is the first time in years that ice has formed on the lake this early in the winter season. Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com

The western tip of Lake Superior has frozen over in December for THE FIRST TIME IN RECENT MEMORY. Seeing any ice this early has been RARE in recent years. In the rare years recently when Lake Superior has partially frozen, it’s usually in February or early March, after months of cold weather. There’s also thickening ice in the channel between Bayfield and Madeline Island, and the Madeline Island Ferry Line is about to close for the season — the first time it’s closed in December since 1985. Not only is December ice RARE on Superior, but thick ice has become the exception during any winter month. In several recent winters, the ferry line never did shut down, forced to operate all winter because ice never formed or was too thin for people to drive across. December’s average temperature at the Duluth office of the National Weather Service has been an UNUSUALLY COLD 9.3 degrees below normal, with a dozen nights below zero and one as cold as -22 below. Increased ice can help keep water from evaporating, leading to more water in the lake next spring. It’s believed the lack of ice cover in recent years has been a big factor in declining lake levels.
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