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Amazing steam rising off of Lake Ontario in frigid temperatures

It's -20C or below. Here's how steamy the Great Lakes are

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Saturday, February 13, 2016, 2:24 PM - It may be hideously cold in southern Ontario this weekend, but anyone braving the deep freeze for a lake-side stroll would be in for a treat.

Prodigious amounts of steam have been rising over Lake Ontario Saturday, a direct result of temperatures that have struggled to scrape the bottom of -20oC.

Here's what the phenomenon looked like from a few stories up, shot by journalist Nicholas Mizera:

The lakes have been barely frozen this year, compared to last, due to regular bouts of well-above seasonal weather that brought temperatures in the teens to southern Ontario even in January.

Water tends to freeze, and warm, much slower than the land, so when this weekend's deep freeze rolled in, the temperature contrast between the air and the lake water reached drastic levels.

"It's so cold, the air above the water instantly condenses," Weather Network meteorologist Erin Wenckstern said. "It's just like a hot tub on a cold night."

Though not out of the ordinary, the effect seems more prodigious this year because of how unfrozen the Great Lakes are compared to early 2015.

That mere nine per cent freeze late last week is nothing compared to more than 50 per cent freeze at the same time last year, and was actually down from a peak of around 13 per cent last month.

This weekend's deep freeze for sure will lead to an increase in ice cover, but it'll come too late to do much about communities in southern Ontario that are getting hammered by snow Saturday.

Wind shear over Lake Huron is driving frigid air over the comparitively warm lakes, such that the condensation is being driven inland as snow, and quite a bit of it.

Parts of the Lake Huron shores, and as far inland as London, Strathroy and beyond, have seen more than 20 cm of snow so far, with snow squall warnings in effect. Environment Canada says some communities may pick up more than 30 cm by the time it's all over.

The main snow squall is occurring from near Kettle Point to Glencoe with other snow squalls from Lambton Shores and Grand Bend to Strathroy. These heavy snow squalls should stay west of London until a little later today when winds shift slightly," the weather agency said.

Tune in on TV for ongoing coverage of this weekend's winter weather

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