Freezing Great Lakes Region
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Freezing Great Lakes Region

February 6, 2005

The race is on to see which will freeze first: the northeastern offshoot of Lake Huron—Georgian Bay—or Lake Erie. These images of the five Great Lakes—(left to right) Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario—show ice beginning to build up around the shores of each of the lakes, with snow on the ground across virtually the entire scene.

This image is made from observations by the Terra MODIS instrument on January 27, 2005. A false-color image of the same scene is available on the Earth Observatory. This image (and its false-color counterpart) indicates that both Georgian Bay and Lake Erie have a considerable amount of ice.

Using our modern designations of the Great Lakes, there is really no contest as to which would be the first to freeze. Erie is the smallest of the Great Lakes in terms of volume and roughly ties with Lake Ontario for smallest surface area. The small, shallow lake is therefore the first to freeze in the winter and the first to thaw in the spring. However, Georgian Bay, nearly cut off from Lake Huron by Manitoulin Island in the north and Bruce Peninsula in the south, was considered by the first European explorers as a lake in its own right; it is large enough to be in the world's top 20 largest lakes. If we used the historical descriptions of the Great Lakes, the race to be the first to freeze would be a much tighter contest. To keep track of winter's march across the Great Lakes, view daily imagery from the MODIS Rapid Response System.

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