North American snow cover at 3rd-highest level on record

9:37 PM, Mar 5, 2014   |    comments
Liz Hall, of Albany, N.Y., digs her car out of snow in the Center Square neighborhood.
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(USA TODAY) - As of Tuesday, North America is covered by the third-highest amount of snow this late in the season since records began in 1966, according to NOAA's U.S. National Ice Center.

Only 1969 and 1978 had more snow cover at this point in the year, according to Sean Helfrich of NOAA's National Ice Center.

This data includes both the U.S. and Canada, reported New Jersey state climatologist and Rutgers University geography professor David Robinson.

"Given that the vast majority of Canada is snow-covered at this time of the year (except in a very mild early March), the signal is virtually entirely a function of snow extent variations in the lower 48," he said in an e-mail.

As for the U.S. alone, over 50% of the nation is snow-covered, the most for March 5 in at least the last 10 years.

Great Lakes ice extent is also very high: 91% of the Great Lakes are ice covered, the second-highest percentage on record.