Will Pittsburgh Get Cold Enough for Rare Gulls Next Week?

Watching gulls at the Point, Pittsburgh, PA Jan 31, 2015 (photo by Tim Vechter)
Watching gulls at the Point, Pittsburgh, PA, 31 Jan 2015 (photo by Tim Vechter)

11 January 2024

Only a few days ago I was lamenting that we weren’t having a snowy winter, neither snow nor snowy owls. Well, be careful what you ask for! A few days of bitter cold are coming to Pittsburgh next week. If Lake Erie freezes, arctic gulls will fly south to find open water on the rivers. The photo above shows some cold and happy birders looking at rare gulls at the Point in January 2015.

So what are the chances this will happen next week?

As of this morning, the forecasted low temperature for dawn on Wednesday 17 January is 9°F. This map for next Monday sure looks like we’re in a “polar vortex.” Cold, right?

Low temperature forecast for Monday 15 January 2024 as of 11 Jan ( from the NWS)

But will it be cold long enough to freeze Lake Erie and send the gulls south? Probably not. The eastern Great Lakes ice map as of yesterday, 10 Jan 2024, shows nearly 100% open water (white).

Eastern Great Lakes Ice Chart as of 10 Jan 2024 (map from North American Ice Service)

There’s not even a hint of ice (blue) on most of Lake Erie and the Great Lakes ice-to-date graph for winter 2023-24 indicates that ice is at a near record low. There’s a lot of cooling off to do before the lakes will freeze.

So next week I’ll have to wear my Minnesota gear to go outdoors but it’s unlikely there will be any unusual birds out there. Will I want to go out in 9°F anyway? I’ll have to wait and see.

(credits are in the cations)

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