Ice on the Great Lakes is at its highest levels in 20 years, aided by a polar vortex and what many scientists are calling the first real winter in decades.
The low temperatures have led to more than 70 percent ice cover, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab’s forecasting system. This is up from 62 percent cover on January 29 – less than one week ago.
The solid lakes have complicated passage of shipping boats and lengthened days that the U.S. Coast Guard needs to make patrols. But there are upsides to the ice cover, like minimized shoreline erosion and more cover for fish spawning. It also makes a perfect proving ground for boaters who sail on the ice using platforms similar to windsurfing crafts.
The niche sport is called ice sailing. Over the weekend, frozen Lake Erie – currently more than 90 percent ice cover – hosted a group of ice boaters eager to try out their crafts after mild winters of the past left them without a venue. They sail in groups for safety reasons. The biggest thrill, they say, is the speed. Watch clips of the sport in action here.
Featured Image: Frozen Lake Erie as seen near Cleveland, Ohio. March 2009. (Credit: Flickr User Teknorat via Creative Commons)