Winter is coming.

All right. Enough quoting "Game of Thrones".

Frozen Lake Superior. Photo via YouTube (joel jeffery)
Frozen Lake Superior. Photo via YouTube (joel jeffery)
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Freezing temperatures are inevitably on their way to Michigan yet again, and once the mercury plummets past a certain point, most of the state's lakes will begin to freeze over, at least in part.

The exact number of lakes in Michigan has long been debated. The state's official website claims we're home to 11,000 inland lakes. Michiganlakeinfo.com asserts that the number should be closer to 10,000. At any rate, it's a lot.

Lakes begin to freeze along their shores first. This is because the water there is shallow and there's less water to freeze once the temperature gets cold enough. As the weather gets colder, the ice begins to expand its coverage area across the lake, sometimes completely icing over.

Lake Huron, frozen over. Photo via YouTube (CBS Mornings)
Lake Huron, frozen over. Photo via YouTube (CBS Mornings)
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By the same science, shallower lakes will freeze more easily than deeper ones.

All of Michigan's inland lakes have frozen over at some point in the state's history, and many of them do so on an annual basis.

Four of the five Great Lakes touch Michigan - Superior, Huron, Michigan and Erie. It's harder for them to freeze over, by virtue of their size and depth. However, all but one of them have indeed frozen over completely.

NASA tells us that Lake Erie is typically the first of the Great Lakes to freeze over during widespread frigid weather, since the rest of the Great Lakes are deeper. According to their data, the last time that happened was 1996.

Frozen Lake Erie, as seen from above via drone. Photo via YouTube (Alexz Schasfoort)
Frozen Lake Erie, as seen from above via drone. Photo via YouTube (Alexz Schasfoort)
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Lake Superior also last froze over in 1996. Lake Huron froze over most recently in 2003, according to livescience.com.

That leaves Lake Michigan. While it's come close, Lake Michigan has not frozen completely over in recorded history. According to WGN-TV Chicago meteorologist Tom Skilling,

In records dating from the middle 1800s, even in the coldest winters, Lake Michigan has never completely frozen over. It has been as much as 90 percent or more ice-covered in 1903-04, 1976-77, 1978-79, 1998-99 and 2013-14.

How much ice coverage will Michigan see on its lakes this coming winter? Only time will tell.

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