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Lake Superior Ice Data

How does mean winter temperature affect length of season for lake ice?  To investigate this question we obtained seasonal ice observation data for a single gauge station (#9004) on Lake Superior.  Data were reported in the form of "first date of observed ice" and "last date of observed ice" -- from these dates we computed the number of days of ice for each year at this station.  We found temperature data from a nearby National Climate Data Center weather station (#205816 in Michigan).  The temperature data is compiled by the United States Historic Climate Network (USHCN) a division of NOAA, but can be downloaded most easily through QELP data set #050.

The scatter in the data suggests that mean winter (December through April) temperature is not a very strong predictor of the length of the ice season.  There is some correlation in the data (we computed a linear regression r value of -.42), but why not more?  What other factors could affect the length of the ice season?  Could the mean December and mean April temperatures be a better predictor?  Is there a different weather station whose temperature data would correlate better with the ice data?  Are there other climate factors (such as wind, clouds, or solar radiation) that also play a part in the duartion of ice?  What information can be gleaned from the outliers on this scatterplot? These are all excellent questions that students might investigate, if only at a rudimentary level.

Ice Data Source:  National Snow and Ice Data Center:  http://www.nsidc.org

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 Lake Superior Ice at Gauge Station 9004 (lat/long=N46.48/W84.62) Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center: www.nsidc.org Temp data at Station 205816 (lat/long = N46.20/W85.30) Source: Unites States Historical Climate Network: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/ol/climate/research/ushcn/ushcn.html ice season Dec-Apr mean temp days of ice 1955-1956 22.94 87 1956-1957 23.02 137 1957-1958 25.68 106 1958-1959 19.96 97 1959-1960 24.80 105 1960-1961 23.98 118 1961-1962 22.10 118 1962-1963 20.30 136 1963-1964 24.20 91 1964-1965 1965-1966 1966-1967 22.74 107 1967-1968 24.16 96 1968-1969 24.94 114 1969-1970 22.40 125 1970-1971 22.14 115 1971-1972 20.84 118 1972-1973 25.66 82 1973-1974 21.73 115 1974-1975 24.49 97 1975-1976 24.13 104 1976-1977 22.17 146 1977-1978 21.73 126 1978-1979 20.41 141 1979-1980 24.41 111 1980-1981 23.95 123 1981-1982 20.95 118 1982-1983 26.71 83 1983-1984 22.81 48 1984-1985 23.11 118 1985-1986 23.33 116 1986-1987 28.83 81 1987-1988 23.11 116 1988-1989 21.47 123 1989-1990 23.97 112 1990-1991 24.75 99 1991-1992 23.61 102 1992-1993 23.08 118 1993-1994 21.24 63 1994-1995 26.63 62 1995-1996 1996-1997 23.88 132
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