Ice on Lake Michigan may make for cooler spring, summer

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Scientists across the Great Lakes are measuring ice coverage not seen in 30 years! So will this winter's icy waters keep us "cooler near the lake" this summer?

Folks with UW-Milwaukee's School of Freshwater Sciences says they have not seen ice coverage on the Great Lakes like this in decades, and it's all due to the cold winter we've seen this year.

Harvey Bootsma is an associate professor at UW-Milwaukee. He was born in Canada, but has lived in Milwaukee for 14 years.

On Wednesday, February 12th, Bootsma monitored the ice on Lake Michigan.

"More ice cover now than it has had in several decades. In fact, most of the Great Lakes do," Bootsma said.

The lakes froze over sooner, and will likely stay frozen longer. As a result, the shipping season was cut short.

"Ships like to run as long as they can into the winter, shipping things like coal and salt and grain," Bootsma said.

There is a projected plus to all of the ice and snow we've seen this winter.

"It's looking like this year we will have higher lake levels than last year," Bootsma said.

That is good news after years of low lake levels caused by several factors, including warmer winter temperatures and a lack of snowfall.

Bootsma says there may be a catch for beach-goers, as he is forecasting a cooler spring and colder water temperatures.

"When we have cold weather in spring the algae is worst in the summer. We are not sure why but there is a definite pattern there," Bootsma said.

Bootsma says the lake conditions seen this year were the norm 30 years ago -- suggesting that perhaps our own perception of what is "normal" has been skewed.