Lake Michigan Running Warm
There's no question this possible record breaking El Nino is causing us to have an above average December! So far for the month we are nearly 12 degrees above average, and there doesn't look to be any major cold snap to finish out 2015. You can't discount the affect El Nino has on Lake Michigan water temperatures either.
Right now the average water temperature of the lake is 40 degrees, and that's 4 degrees warmer than average. A few degrees can make a big difference when it comes to any ice formation, and that's very important later in the season.
Speaking of ice take a look at last year. A year ago the lake was around 39 degrees, and ice was already forming close to the shore. Nearly 80% of the lake last winter was covered in ice. The ice had a huge impact on our temperatures in early summer. The lake breeze was more significant, and lakeside and even inland communities were cooler than average through early June.
The last El Nino was back in 2009 and 2010. That was nowhere near the strength of this episode, but look at the ice information from Lake Michigan. While the ice peaked around early March, it was pretty much done by the middle of April. The percentage of ice was way down compared to last year.
My guess is the same will happen this year. We will expect lower than average ice and the overall waters won't cool as much. That might help us warm up faster in May and early June of 2016!