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The Great Lakes are almost completely frozen over -- and they're on target to break an all-time record this week.

The Great Lakes are inching closer to all-time ice cover record

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, March 4, 2014, 6:48 PM -

The Great Lakes are almost completely frozen over.

Federal researchers in the U.S. say ice covered 90.5 percent of the lakes' surface as of Sunday -- one of the highest percentages ever recorded.

Back in 1979, ice coverage on the Great Lakes hit an all-time high of 94.7 percent. Scientists say this record will likely be broken this week.

With bitterly cold temperatures dominating much of this winter, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the ice coverage on the Great Lakes is currently well above average.

Scientists say the ice appears to have started building as early as late November.

RELATED: NASA image shows extensive ice coverage of the Great Lakes

"According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL), ice cover on North America’s Great Lakes peaked at 88.42% on February 12-13 – a percentage not recorded since 1994," NASA says. "The ice extent has surpassed 80 per cent just five times in four decades. The average maximum ice extent since 1973 is just over 50 per cent."

The extensive ice coverage however, interferes with marine commerce, boating and fishing, all of which depend on navigable waterways.

"It also closes the lakes to migratory birds which flock here in the winter time," adds NASA.

Despite the deep freeze, only about a quarter of Lake Ontario is frozen.

Experts say that's due to the depth and location of the lake.

While it's the smallest of the five Great Lakes, Lake Ontario is the second deepest with an average depth of 85 metres.

With files from The Toronto Star

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