Great Lakes nearly covered with ice for first time in 20 years

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:43 PM ET

The Great Lakes are more iced over than any time in the past 20 years.

Registering at 88.4% ice coverage Friday -- up from 60% on Jan. 29 -- the world's largest cluster of freshwater lakes is almost entirely frozen over.

The all-time record is 94.8% in 1979. The last time they came this close to being fully frozen was 1994, when ice cover hit 90.7%.

Last year's ice cover maxed out at about 38%.

Lake Ontario remains mostly unfrozen, however. The lowest of all five, it was at 41.4% ice cover Friday. Lake Superior was 94%, Michigan 80.8%, Huron 95% and Erie 95.6%. The increased ice cover may slow the spring thaw in nearby regions, keeping farm crops dormant longer. It also poses challenges to the shipping industry.

The data is from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Mich.

-- With files from Debora Van Brenk


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