With little ice on Superior, access to ice caves unlikely

January 31, 2020 GMT

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — The breathtaking ice caves along the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore will likely be inaccessible this year due to low ice coverage on Lake Superior.

On Friday, less than 5% of Lake Superior was covered by ice; ice coverage is typically 25% at the end of January.

The Star Tribune reported that the last time the ice caves were accessible by foot was in 2015. While ice coverage on Superior usually peaks in February or March, data shows most winters with this level of ice on Jan. 31 don’t accumulate much more.

A University of Michigan study last year said tracking ice on the Great Lakes is an ideal case study for climate research. Ice surrounding the Bayfield Peninsula was more consistent before the late 1990s, when “all of a sudden we saw years in which there was no safe ice cover,” said Andrew Gronewold, a study author.

Still, there’s hope at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

“We’re always hoping — it’s a beautiful event we want people to be able to experience,” said Justin Olson, who works at the lakeshore. He added: “If it gets really cold and we don’t get a lot of wind, who knows what can happen.”