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Great Lakes Warming: Earth Image of the Week March 30, 2012
Water temperature graphic of Great Lakes.
Surface water temperatures in parts of the Great Lakes are already as warm as they typically are in late May or early June.
The North American Great Lakes have warmed dramatically in recent weeks, reaching record high temperatures made possible by an ice-free winter.

As most residents of southern Canada and the northern United States know, the past winter was unusually warm, with many areas never even experiencing a hard freeze.

This warmth also kept the waters of the Great Lakes from developing the typical cap of ice during the depth of winter.

The image to the right was created with data captured by NASA’s MODIS Sea Surface Temperature product.

It shows that on March 21, there were a number of pockets of warm surface water temperatures in the 50s (Fahrenheit). Those temperatures are represented by the green to yellow colors visible in several southern areas of the Great Lakes.

Also on that March 21, the Lake Erie water temperatures measured at Buffalo, New York, reached 39 degrees. That tied for the warmest ever recorded there during the month of March.

NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory points out that water temperatures in southern Lake Michigan are already similar to what is normally seen in late May and early June.

A review of previous readings shows that the surface water there is warmer than at any other point in late March going back to at least 1981.

Image: CIMSS