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Photos: Stunning Ice-Covered Great Lakes Seen from Space

At the time these NASA images were captured, 80.3 percent of the five lakes were covered in ice
Related: Earth, winter

Friday, Feb. 21, 2014

A deep freeze has settled in over the Great Lakes this winter and a new image released by NASA shows the astonishing extent of the ice cover as seen from space.

NASA's Aqua satellite captured these images of the lakes on the early afternoon of Feb. 19, 2014. At the time, 80.3 percent of the five lakes were covered in ice, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL), part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (The image on the right shows the true color image, while the image on the right shows a false-color image.)

Earlier this month, ice cover over the Great Lakes hit 88 percent for the first time since 1994. Typically at its peak, the average ice cover is just over 50 percent, and it only occasionally passes 80 percent, according to NASA's Earth Observatory. [Earth from Above: 101 Stunning Images from Orbit]

Cold temperatures that have persisted in the region are largely responsible for this year's thick layer of ice, but cryospheric scientist Nathan Kurtz, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, told the Earth Observatory that "secondary factors like clouds, snow and wind also play a role." And some lakes are more frozen than others. While the ice cover over Lake Erie, Lake Superior and Lake Huron is approaching 100 percent, Lake Ontario is only around 20 percent frozen and Lake Michigan is about 60 percent covered, according to the latest update from GLERL.

NASA researchers also put together a false-color image (right) combining shortwave infrared, near infrared and red wavelengths to pick out ice from other elements that look white in visible-wavelength images like snow, water and clouds. In this image, ice appears pale blue, and the thicker it is the brighter it looks. Open water, meanwhile, is shown in navy, snow is blue-green and clouds appear either white or blue-green, according the Earth Observatory.

The ice could have environmental effects on the surrounding region.

"The biggest impact we'll see is shutting down the lake-effect snow," Guy Meadows, director of Michigan Technological University's Great Lakes Research Center, explained in a statement. This "lake-effect" snow usually gets dumped on the region when weather systems from the north and west pick up evaporating lake water. The ice cover is reducing evaporation, but that could be a good thing for the Great Lakes, which experienced record low water levels last year.

In another plus, the ice is thick enough over Lake Superior for visitors to reach the Apostle Islands' ice caves for the first time since 2009. And Meadows said the ice could also protect the spawning beds of whitefish and some other fish species from winter storms.

Follow Megan Gannon on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @OAPlanet, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Live Science's Our Amazing Planet.

Copyright 2014 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. p>

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How about this for a novel concept: God created the earth and no man can destroy what God created.

February 23 2014 at 11:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You can hardly tell the land from the water. Will that stuff all be gone by the start of summer? Will it be warm enough to swim in this summer?

February 23 2014 at 5:22 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

NOAA admits they can not predict weather 3 months out. "scientists" tell us catastophic warming in the next 100 yrs. Nature is wholly unpredictable. Man can not change weather. If you want to worry about something you have no control over, worry about global cooling.

February 23 2014 at 12:26 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Uhhhhhhh, tell me again please, what was that about Global Warming?

February 22 2014 at 11:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Steven's comment

Here in Phoenix, we are in the low 80's and last week almost hit 90. Normal temp is about 70. Been very warm all this month and part of last. No rain in months which is also not normal for us.

February 23 2014 at 8:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dantdon4's comment

Same in southern CA; way above normal. Only wore sweat clothes one week.

February 23 2014 at 9:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down

How can so many people be blind to the evidence of global warming? The lack of concern and understanding about what humans are doing to the earth guarentees that life as we know it will disappear in a few hundred years. Will the earth turn into another Venus.

February 22 2014 at 5:28 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to greacia's comment

You and so many others stick to the idea humans are doing this to the earth and that guarantees that life as we know it will disappear? Why do you all continue to ignore that scientific investigation shows the earth has fluctuated from being a barren rocky wasteland of super hot temperatures, through periods of temperate jungle like environment, and back to being an ice cube again. Science tells us this has happened at least four times since creation via "The Big Ban" or any religious manner of your choice. Who is blind?

February 22 2014 at 9:12 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Joebudgie's comment

Yes, Joe, the earth does go through cyclical changes but who's the "blind" one?
The person who honestly believes that 7 Billion people, the carbon emissions they produce, the livestock need to sustain them, the natural resources removed to provide for them, have NO effect on this earth or climate? You seem to be the blind one. You and people like you who refuse to even consider that we are destroying this earth.

February 23 2014 at 8:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down

When 'Global Warming' was proven false, the EcoMarxists started calling it 'Climate Change'. What will they call it now to keep Al-Jazeera Gore's money train rolling?

February 22 2014 at 4:21 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

"Polar Vortex"? I thought it was that the Jet Stream influenced Winter Storms. What happened to "Winter Storm"? Always have to have some hyped up name for everything these days.

February 22 2014 at 3:32 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply

The birthbaggers will all sit in their new igloos and confirm to one another that global climate change isn't real, and that Al Gore is somehow to blame.

February 22 2014 at 12:58 PM Report abuse -7 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to donstillings's comment

Climate change is a reality thats been going on since the dawn of time....it was a clever ruse by global warming alarmists to change the name to cover damn near every weather event....Al Gore was part of the global warming crowd ...he wasnt sharp enough to come up with the name change

February 22 2014 at 1:24 PM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply

Sit Al Gore out on the ice. He has enough hot air in him to melt the Great Lakes.

February 22 2014 at 11:13 AM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply

Left out of this article is the effect that so much ice will have on climate change. It will reflect more of the sun's heat and cause "Global Cooling." (Oh-oh. Can't say that in public...)

February 22 2014 at 10:40 AM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply
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