Lake Erie has effect all year

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Spring arrives in 37 days.

And there is even more good news: All the cold we have seen so far this winter season may actually help bring better weather through the rest of winter and early spring. The cold has put quite a bit of ice on the Great Lakes, which can bring sunshine and less lake effect snow.

January 2014 was the first time in three years that temperatures dipped below zero in the Valley. So far this year, 10 days have had below zero readings.

“This is a winter we haven’t experienced in some time, so this is definitely a below normal winter,” said Gary Garnet of the National Weather Service in Cleveland.

The below normal temperatures have covered the majority of the Great Lakes in ice, As of Monday, the Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab reports 78 percent of the surface area is ice covered.

That ice can be a good thing.

“A lot of people have noticed we’re getting a lot more sun than we normally get this time of year. As the lakes freeze over, obviously there’s not that much moisture going into the air,” Garnet said.

The ice lowers the amount of evaporation that can take place.

“Now it doesn’t completely shut it off. We still get some evaporation through the ice. There’s still breaks and cracks,” Garnet said.

While the ice is there, it is more difficult to get that moisture into the air, meaning lake effect snows don’t pile up as high and clouds from the lake don’t form as easily, allowing for a bit more sunshine. It can also keep the lakes cooler.

“Solar radiation will be reflected by the ice and snow cover on the lake instead of being absorbed into the water,” said George Leshkevich, a scientist with the Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab.

A cooler lake can minimize the amount of springtime lake effect snow and that can delay the onset of harmful algae during the summer recreation season.

“The harmful algae blooms that have been taking place in Lake Erie need warm water temperatures,” said Leshkevich.

Recent research also shows the ice also helps keep lake levels higher through the summer.

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