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Great Lakes are warmer than normal. Snow on the way?

New heat maps from NOAA show the startling change in water temperatures across the Great Lakes this year.

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Credit NOAA
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Back in 2014, the heat map shows a bluish scene, illustrating cool temperatures. But this year, the map in late November temps is all yellows and oranges.

There are even some red highlights along the eastern end of Lake Erie, the shallowest of the lakes.

Data from NOAA Coastwatch's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory says temperatures are the warmest since at least 2010. 

NOAA notes that "the combination of warm lake waters and cold winter winds blowing across them is a perfect combination for lake effect snow." The region already had one blast a couple of weeks ago, and more could be on the way.

Thursday, NOAA released a winter forecast that highlights the impact of a "weak" La Nina system.  It says, "odds shift toward chances to be cooler than normal, especially in the western Great Lakes area. The southern Great Lakes, near the Ohio River valley, also may see a slight shift toward wetter-than-normal conditions."

Back in 2010, when the Great Lakes also were warm into late November, lake surfaces stayed mostly ice-free for the entire winter, NOAA notes.

In a winter with significant ice, like 2013-14, it started forming as early as Thanksgiving, research shows. By Dec. 31, there was significant ice cover on the lakes. This year, ice has yet to form.

Mark Breederland of the Michigan State University Extension raises a related issue: "Perhaps a bigger question is will the cold air masses come in from Canada and for what duration to cause large lake effect? ...

"We are also just getting started in a weak La Nina winter . ... This may indicate a bit warmer than normal conditions from December to February. If this is the case, the winter may not be extremely wet or dry."

​Breederland, who lives in Traverse City, Mich., adds: "I have my snowblower ready."

Here's more data on temperatures for each lake.

Copyright 2016 Great Lakes Today

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