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A Silver Lining to Michigan's Cold, Snowy Winter

PHOTO: The harsh winter has been enough to freeze Lake Michigan, but scientists say that could actually be a good thing, come spring. Photo credit: M. Shand
PHOTO: The harsh winter has been enough to freeze Lake Michigan, but scientists say that could actually be a good thing, come spring. Photo credit: M. Shand
February 14, 2014

EAST LANSING, Mich. – With snow banks piled sky high, sub-zero wind chills closing schools and four of the five Great Lakes now frozen over, it's hard to think of this year's winter as anything but miserable.

But scientists promise there is a silver lining.

Jeff Andresen, Michigan’s state climatologist, says the deep freeze is actually very good news for the Great Lakes.

"Having ice over the cover of the lake inhibits or prohibits even evaporation of free water,” he points out. “So this should help reduce the amount of evaporation, and of course, that would help our lake levels a little bit.”

Andresen adds that water levels have been below normal in most of the Great Lakes since the late 1990s. And over the past two years, Lakes Michigan and Huron hit their lowest points on record.

Andresen says it's possible the deep freeze will also help reduce the population of certain invasive insect species, such as the emerald ash borer – particularly if they didn't choose the right seasonal accommodations.

"If they had the bad fortune of overwintering on a tree or on bark,” he explains, “or on a location that was exposed and above the snow line, odds are that – well, there are going to be many fewer of them."

Andresen notes that as long as the snow melts at a slow rate that the ground is able to absorb, farmers will be giving thanks, because the water will be much-needed later in the growing season, when the demands of plants typically exceed what the state receives in precipitation.



Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI