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TEACH Questions & Answers

What year did Lake Ontario freeze completely solid for one day?
from Anthony in Wilson, NY, Age 62

The Great Lakes can sometimes freeze completely over, but the water beneath the surface layer of ice remains in a liquid state well above the freezing point: 32 degrees Farenheight or 0 (zero) degrees Celsius. If all this water froze completely solid, even for a day, then all of the lifeforms in the lake would die!

Lake Erie, for example, is the shallowest lake and the lake with the least volume. It can freeze over (but not completely solid) during any severe winter. On the other hand, Lake Ontario -- with the second deepest average depth of all the Great Lakes and a volume approximately 3.5 times that of Lake Erie -- will only have about 25% ice coverage of its surface during a severe winter.

Related references:
TEACH: Do the Great Lakes freeze in the winter?
Great Lakes Aquarium: How often do the Great Lakes freeze completely over?
GLERL: Great Lakes Surface Environmental Analysis (GLSEA)

Thank you for your question!

Answered on August 3, 2001

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