The Great Lakes region includes the states and provinces surrounding the five lakes in North America; lakes Erie, Huron, Michigan, Ontario and Superior. The states and provinces surrounding these lakes include Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Ontario, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
From their westernmost tip near Duluth, Minnesota to the easternmost point in New York/Ontario, the Great Lakes stretch about one thousand miles across the United States and Canada. The total shoreline of these five massive lakes totals over 9,000 miles—longer than the U.S. East and Gulf coasts combined. The Great Lakes have a combined surface area of 94,000 square miles (244,000 square kilometers). The water volume, 6 quadrillion gallons (22.7 quadrillion liters), if spread over the continental United States would cover the country in nearly 10 feet of water.
The Great Lakes constitute the largest freshwater ecosystem in the world. The water massively affects the land area surrounding the lakes acting as a heat sink that moderates the temperatures of the surrounding land, cooling the summers and warming the winters. But the lakes also act like giant humidifiers, increasing the moisture content of the air. In the winter, this moisture contributes to heavy snowfall known as “lake effect” snow. During the rest of the year, the moisture evaporating off of the lakes can produce some of the most powerful storms on the planet. Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are common in this area. Unusual storm events that resemble tropical cyclones can also form over the lakes.
For those of us who live here, the weather is as fascinating and varied as one could ever wish. The lakes create their own set of conditions that are as unusual as they are intriguing. It is with that in mind, we hope this blog can help people learn about the weather around the lakes, and what resources are available to outdoor enthusiasts to make their activities as safe and fun as practical.