BUFFALO, N.Y. - Early February usually signals the time of year when the temperature in western New York bottoms out. It’s also when we expect Lake Erie to be frozen over. 60% of the lake should be covered in ice at this point. But this year, it's hard to find any ice on the lakeshores.
January had only 11 days that stayed below freezing. That prevented widespread ice formation. But Lake Erie’s lack of ice this year, can be traced back to August of last year, when the water reached a simmering 79 degrees, nearly breaking an all time record. That meant it would take more cold air for a longer period of time to get the lake to freeze.
Lake Erie’s temperature is taken at the Buffalo Water Treatment Plant, right at the mouth of the Niagara river at a depth of 30 feet. Right now, the thermometer reads 34 degrees, only a degree above where we’d expect it right now. But that's still 2 degrees above where it needs to be to begin ice formation.
The best weather for rapid ice growth is cold, calm and clear. Less wind allows the water to settle and freeze faster. Less clouds means the temperature can drop just a little lower. February holds the opportunity for that sort of pattern, at least for a little while.