Lake Mendota’s Freeze Earliest in… well…Three Years

As you now probably know, the Wisconsin State Climatologist’s office has officially called it – Lake Mendota achieved “ice on” this Monday, December 16th. And that means our iconic lake has frozen twice in the same calendar year! (Not all that unusual, but still cool.)

From Picnic Point to Maple Bluff, Lake Mendota is "hard" water. Photo: Hinterthuer
From Picnic Point to Maple Bluff, Lake Mendota is “hard” water. Photo: Hinterthuer

While the freeze comes nearly a month earlier than the last two years (both 2011 and 2012 had ice-on dates on January 14th), it doesn’t exactly set a precedent – you only need to go back to 2010 in the records to discover another mid-December freeze. (The 15th, to be exact). You can read more about long-term trends in lake ice here.
What does the fox chase? A lot of little critters have already taken advantage of the frozen lake, as these rabbit prints attest. Photo: Hinterthuer
What does the fox chase? A lot of little critters have already taken advantage of the frozen lake, as these rabbit prints attest. Photo: Hinterthuer

The “Ice-On Pool” winner here at CFL was Pete McIntyre (who probably submitted his vote at the Dec. 13th deadline right when we could all see the writing on the wall!)
A word about the “official” ice-on date – because of it’s size, no one in the 19th century had a vantage point from which to tell if Lake Mendota had fully frozen or not. Because of this, according to the state climatologist’s website, an important secondary criteria was born – whether one could row a boat between Picnic Point and Maple Bluff.

We’ll let the climatology office elaborate:

This rule arose from the era of E. A. Birge and Chancey Juday (according to Reid Bryson, founder of the UW Meteorology Dept.), because they frequently were out on the lake in a rowboat, and the ice along that line determined if they could transport a case of beer over to their friends in Maple Bluff.

It’s good to know the Center for Limnology’s founding fathers had their priorities in order! (Also, you must be a very good friend if someone’s willing to row a case of beer your way!)

Lake Mendota, winter 2013. Photo: Adam Hinterthuer
Lake Mendota, winter 2013. Photo: Adam Hinterthuer

Until spring, here’s wishing you a safe and enjoyable “hard lake” season. Next up in the office pool – when will the first ice fishermen appear on the Lake Mendota horizon?
 
 

1 thought on “Lake Mendota’s Freeze Earliest in… well…Three Years”

  1. I saw my first ice shanty on Mendota Tuesday. And from our view in WIMR, we’ve seen a few people out there walking already.

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