The weather anywhere around the Lake Superior Circle Tour can at times be quite unpredictable. Depending on the season, there are pros and cons to any type of weather you might encounter. Planning the best ways to prepare for whatever your trip has in store helps make the journey the most enjoyable it can be.
The Lake Effect
The weather around Lake Superior is largely affected by a phenomenon known as the “lake effect”. Areas closer to the shoreline experience warmer temperatures in winter and are cooler in the summer than those areas more inland. This is due to the slower absorption of water and release of heat than on land. Warm moist air rising from the lake combining with cold dry air above will result in precipitation especially downwind. The Lake Effect can cause enormous storms by adding moisture and velocity to the wind passing over Lake Superior. Wind speeds can easily get up to 50 miles (80.5 km) per hour and gusts can reach over 100 miles (161 km) per hour.
Lake Superior Weather Records
The highest recorded Lake Superior wave was on October 24, 2017 at the Granite Island buoy just north of Marquette Michigan at a whooping 28.8 feet high. That’s about as high as a three story house! Marquette not only reached record highs in waves but also in temperature. Back in 1901 the city got as high as a sweltering 108 degrees F (42.2° C)
The coldest recorded temperature goes to White River, Ontario when on January 23, 1935 the temperature dropped to a frigid -72 degrees Fahrenheit (-58° C). They’ve even erected an enormous thermometer in recognition of this record breaking event.
In the winter of 1978, Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula received a record breaking 32.5 feet (9.9m) of snow! Just north of Keweenaw County’s town of Mohawk, you will find the “Snow Stick” which resembles a giant thermometer that showcases the amount of snow that year.
But the most snow in a single day goes to Ironwood, Michigan where they got an incredible 41 inches of snow on a blustery day in November 1989.
Weather Travel Tips
First make sure to read our Ultimate All Season Adventure article which features travel information and tips for completing the Circle Tour during any season!
If traveling west to east along the lake and you run into a storm, if time permits, you may want to consider stopping for a day or so to avoid traveling along with the storm.
If your trip is during the summer months, don’t just pack your shorts and flip flops, evenings can get chilly and there is a possibility for windy or rainy days. Also pack long sleeves, pants and maybe a light jacket.
Summer weather can also bring on the bugs! Have some bug spray on hand particularly if you are camping in wooded areas where mosquitos tend to thrive.
Autumn is a wonderful time to experience the fall colors around Lake Superior. It also has a tendency to be chilly, windy, rainy and even foggy.
Traveling with a small compact umbrella is always a good idea in case of an unexpected downpour.
Often when we’re traveling we are outdoors more than usual. No matter the season, be sure to pack waterproof sunscreens. Even on overcast days, UV rays still come through and during winter, the reflection of the sun on the white snow can expose you more so.
In America, temperature is measured in Fahrenheit. Canada uses Celsius. Use our temperature conversion calculator to easily convert any temperature to what you’re most comfortable using.
Knowing what to expect will help you plan your trip accordingly. Checking the weather forecasts in the places you will be traveling to is a good idea prior to packing and setting off on the road. Below are links to the forecasts to some communities around the lake to help get you started.