We’re no meteorologists and/or “Weather Experts,” but this winter has been remarkably mild. And hey, we’ll take it! But even so, there’s a question that always pops into our heads around this time of year: Is it possible for Lake Michigan to completely freeze over?

The answer: maybe? Lake Michigan has a surface area of 22,404 square miles, making it the third largest of the Great Lakes. Wave action, wind, and the heat contained within the lake itself have prevented it from freezing over thus far. But it has come close: Records show that ice coverage on the lake reached 90 to 95 percent during the winters of 1903-04, 1976-77, 1978-79, and 2013-14. In typical years, ice covers less than half of the lake.

Then again, maybe it has frozen over. A February 27, 1963 piece from the Muskegon Chronicle claims that not only was the 85-miles stretch of lake between Muskegon and Milwaukee frozen over that year, but that it had also frozen over back in 1936. In the case of the supposed 1963 freeze-over…

Official verification came from R. W. Harms, meteorologist in charge of the U.S. Weather Bureau station at Milwaukee’s Gen. Mitchell Field.

Skeptical of reports the lake was closing in, he flew the Milwaukee-Muskegon route Tuesday, saw one vast field of white and sent out the message, “We can truthfully say the lake has frozen over.”

According to observers who accompanied him, there are great floes with dimensions measured in miles, which lie frozen edge to edge. In midlake, where winds and waves usually keep the water churning in liquid form, the ice field “looks like the hide of a giraffe.”

The Chronicle‘s Dave LeMieux questions the 1963 report, however, citing those pesky winds and waves. Still, he adds this:

So? Probably happened. Sometime. Maybe.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, lakes Superior, Huron, and Erie have frozen over before, while Ontario has not (maybe).

About The Author

Matt Wild
Co-Founder and Editor

Matt Wild weighs between 140 and 145 pounds. He lives on Milwaukee's east side.

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