The thawing of the Great Lakes is the inevitable beginning of Spring, and the promise of a great summer. The lakes have been frozen more this year, percentage wise, than since the 70’s. This means that the ice has trapped the water and kept evaporation at a minimum. So what does this really mean? It means that with temperatures dipping lower this year, and in many instances, colder than even Alaska, the water levels will rise. With higher water levels, comes greater economic prosperity, as the shipping industry and also the boating community will enjoy an even better ability to utilize travel by water this year. However cold temperatures and frozen lakes has hampered the shipping industry this winter, Michigan is hopeful to regain footing with high water through out the rest of the year. High water means that the freighters will be able to hold more cargo than in the previous low water seasons, and a full freighter is far more economic that a partial shipment.
Scientists have been monitoring ice coverage of the Great Lakes for years, as it has huge impact on a number of industries like fishing and shipping and also hydro power generation. It also affects the smallest lake around Michigan, Lake St. Clair which has had extremely low water levels for years, impacting such things as boating and even home sales on the low water canals. Residents are looking forward to a great summer on what they consider a great lake and a major waterway for ships carrying coal and other valuable cargo. Seaway is a huge gateway for ships of all kinds, whether they are carrying coal or salt, this passageway linking Lake Erie to Lake Huron through the Detroit river is one of many hubs within the Great Lakes. Seaway is an important shipping canal as shown on Boat Nerds vessel passageway map for 2014, and the record ice coverage is going to make the first few passages nail biters, and possibly even postpone the beginning of the shipping season through this passage way.
With sheets of ice seen floating up and down the rivers and channels, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio and all the states with shorelines on the Great lakes are gearing up for a great summer. This will all be relative to the actual melting of the ice, and break up of the ice flows. In years past, the ice coverage on the lakes has averaged around 30 – 40% and this year, although not record breaking, the averages were 80-90%. Residents living on the shoreline or near the larger body of waters may have a summer that is less than great, as it is going to take longer for the ice to melt as the sun will tend to bounce off the ice, instead of immediately penetrating it. However leisure boaters will not have to worry about so many shallow areas and be able to enjoy not only day boating, but boat trips with less to worry about when navigating. So while the smaller and inland lakes will enjoy high water levels for the first time in years, the larger lakes may be the recipient of slightly cooler temperatures for the summer of 2014.
By Kristi Cereska