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How warm was winter on the Great Lakes? Plenty warm

Floating ice in Buffalo harbor
Floating ice in Buffalo harbor

A new report sums up the crazy winter that brought unusually warm temperatures to the Great Lakes region -- as well as some brutal Lake Effect snowstorms.

Floating ice in Buffalo harbor
Credit Dave Rosenthal
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Floating ice in Buffalo harbor

Toronto recorded its highest February temperature -- 66 degrees -- on Feb. 23, according to the Midwestern Regional Climate Center. The following day, more records were set in Syracuse (71), Binghamton, N.Y. (70), and Erie, Pa., (77).

Meanwhile, Chicago had its longest stretch of days with a temperature 65 degrees or higher, from Feb. 17-22, according to the report that covered the period from December to February.

But even with the warm temperatures, folks weren't spared from shoveling snow. Because there was little ice cover on the Great Lakes, the region was susceptible to Lake Effect storms -- the type that develop when frigid air rushes over the open water and picks up lots of moisture.

One of those storms hit Feb. 1-4, dropping 76 inches of snow in parts of New York that lie east of Lake Ontario.

The report noted that the warm temperatures had a wide-ranging impact. Animal migration patterns were altered, fruit crops came out of their dormant period and the maple syrup harvest occurred much earlier.

Some events, including the Michigan Pond Hockey Classic, were canceled. And as Great Lakes Today has reported, more than 30 snowmobilers and fishermen died due to unstable ice. A lack of ice on the Great Lakes also made the shoreline much more susceptible to erosion from waves.    

In April-June, above-average temperatures are expected across the Great Lakes region. The early spring and warm temperatures -- combined with the lack of snow cover -- could mean an increased risk of wildfires.

Copyright 2017 Great Lakes Today

Dave Rosenthal
Dave Rosenthal is Managing Editor of Great Lakes Today, a collaboration of public media stations that is led by WBFO, ideastream in Cleveland in WXXI in Rochester, and includes other stations in the region.
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