For this being my first Michigan winter, I will say that this has not been too bad.

Several people had warned me about how bad the winters are here, especially because of the lake-effect snow.

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But this winter has been unique, for lack of a better term. With above-average temperatures in January, I've been wondering how this has been affecting the lakes...

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According to sources, Lake Michigan is typically covered with roughly 10 to 20 percent ice this late in the winter season.

I can tell you right now that is not the case currently.

FOX 17 says that,

Lake Michigan is sitting at 3.39% ice coverage and Lake Superior at 2.61% - which feels even smaller given its overall size. Lake Huron is at 3.82% and Lake Erie has 3.35% coverage while Lake Ontario is barely registers at 0.73% ice coverage.

This is incredibly concerning.

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The number of days throughout the winter season has turned toward a decline since 1973.

According to GLISA University of Michigan,

Ice cover on the Great Lakes will likely continue to decrease in the future, however, these decreases are expected to be interrupted by high-ice winters associated with cold air outbreaks. Reduced ice cover results in more winter lake-effect precipitation and increased winter wave activity.

With all of this research and drastic changes, there is only one question left.

What will happen if the Great Lakes ice coverage stops? And why is the ice coverage so important?

The ice cover affects several industries in the states that surround the Great Lakes.

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First and foremost, according to Sensorex,

The Great Lakes currently provide around 27 million people with drinking water. If the lakes consist of high ice coverage, less evaporation will occur, which ensures that water levels are maintained and that everyone is able to have access to the water they require. If there is high ice coverage but no snow, algae growth could increase, which might worsen the quality of drinking water.

Besides drinking water, it could affect shipping situations, marine life, and recreation.

LOOK: Lake Michigan Beach Named One of the Best 'Secret' Beaches in U.S.

Northern Michigan's South Manitou Island has been named among the best 20 "secret" beaches in the U.S. by Southern Living Magazine.

Within Sleeping Bear Dune's National Lakeshore, South and North Manitou Island are part of an island chain in Lake Michigan that extends north to the Straits of Mackinac. 

According to the National Park Service, "The island consists of a ridge of tilted layers of limestone, buried under a blanket of glacial debris. It features unique sand dune formations, 10 miles of beaches, and a grove of old growth white cedars that date back over 500 years."

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