Another Year, Another Late Freeze on Lake Mendota

January 2, 2013 view of Lake Mendota from Hasler Lab. Like 2012, the annual winter freeze has been pushed into the following calendar year.
January 2, 2013 view of Lake Mendota from Hasler Lab. Like 2012, the annual winter freeze has been pushed into the following calendar year.

The view from Hasler Lab on Monday was one of windswept waves crashing into the ice-covered rocks of Lake Mendota’s southern shoreline. Not even a rim of pancake ice to slow their roll.
Today the lake is, well, a little calmer. But out in the middle of Madison’s main aquatic feature, the dark blue of open water dominates the view.
Readers of this blog may know that we here at the CFL have an annual “ice on” pool in our office. Whoever correctly predicts (or gets closest to) the state meteorologist’s official “ice on” date has the dubious distinction of using their meager winnings to provide food for the lab. Regardless, plenty of folks play along and try to guess when ice will cover 50% of Mendota’s surface in a span from Picnic Point to Maple Bluff.
Those interested in seeing past data collected by our always wonderful North Temperate Lakes Long-Term Ecological Research team can check past freeze dates here. Or, if you’re curious to learn more about lake ice, Madison’s history harvesting it and some of the reasons behind last year’s similarly late freeze, well, we covered that last January in this blog.
Whenever Mendota freezes this year, it won’t be in December, and that means the ice-on date for 2012 will be above the late December average of the last two decades and far exceed the average freeze date over the last century.
We’ll be waiting to see if the big chill finally happens tonight or tomorrow, with highs in the low 20s and lows in the teens and single digits predicted. It’s currently a battle of the postdocs, with Ben Beardmore (Jan 3rd) and Cayelan Carey (Jan 4th) sitting on freeze dates of this week.
But, thanks to sunny skies warming the darker open waters and wind speeds staying in the 10 to 15 mph range over the next few days, perhaps it’ll all come down to the latest date postulated for the 2012 season – January 10th. That would see CFL director, Steve Carpenter, and facility manager, Dave Harring, split the prize.
Whoever wins, this year will follow trends seen across our warming globe – the freeze is coming later and layer to Madison lakes. Here’s we are entering 2013, and we’re still waiting on Mendota to officially herald in winter.
Even National Geographic knows that a frozen Lake Mendota is a beautiful Lake Mendota!
Even National Geographic knows that a frozen Lake Mendota is a beautiful Lake Mendota!

 

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