Has Michigan’s Mighty Lake Superior Ever Fully Frozen Over?
When we think of Lake Superior in Michigan, we think crossing at the giant Mackinac Bridge. It's common for many of the Great Lakes to freeze at least a little bit in frigid winter temperatures.
Has Lake Superior ever frozen over completely?
Reports of Lake Superior freezing over completely are sometimes exaggerated. According to the official source, NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, it's only happened once since 1973.
- 1996 Lake Superior was 100% frozen over.
How many times has Lake Superior been close to freezing over completely?
Lake Superior came close to completely freezing over several times since 1973:
- 1970s -- 1977 frozen 96%, 1978 frozen 92.5%, 1979 frozen 97.1%
- 1980s -- 1986 frozen 90.7%
- 1990s -- 1994 frozen 96.1%, 1996 frozen 100%, 1997 89%
- 2000s -- 2003 frozen 95.5%, 2009 frozen 93.6%
- 2010s -- 2014 frozen 95.8%, 2015 frozen 95.7%, 2019 frozen 94.9%
- 2020s -- Not even close, as of the time of this story.
Do the Great Lakes ever freeze over completely?
- Lake Superior has frozen over completely just once since 1973 in 1996.
- Lake Michigan has frozen over completely zero times, but close (90% or more) only three times since 1973.
- Lake Huron has frozen over completely zero times, but close 11 times since 1973
- Lake Erie has frozen over completely three times since 1973. It came close to freezing over 30 times since 1973 -- more than any of the others.
- Lake Ontario has frozen over zero times, and never even close, since 1973. The closest-ever was 1979 at 86.2% and 2015 at 82.4%.
Is Lake Superior the biggest of the Great Lakes?
- Lake Superior is larger than each of the other Great Lakes
- The largest freshwater lake in the world, by surface area.
- The third largest in the world by volume.
Many of us learned those stats in Michigan History classes around the state.
Have all five of the Great Lakes every been completely frozen at one time?
All five of the Great Lakes have never frozen over completely at the same time. The closest ever was 2014 at 92.3%. No matter the Great Lake -- seeing frozen ice caps with deep blue/green hues is stunning. Sometimes waves make ice spikes or look like giant snowflakes. No wonder Michigan is the Water Winter Wonderland.
Remember when ice heaves destroyed a bunch of houses a few years ago? Some people call them "Ice Tsunamis." When ice flows get moving, it sounds like breaking glass. The destruction is crazy.