Slideshow: LTER Winter Sampling on “Unusually” Thick Ice

Passerby stop to check out the nearly two-foot think sections of ice carved from Lake Mendota this winter.
Passerby stop to check out the nearly two-foot think sections of ice carved from Lake Mendota this winter.

A recent article on the website of the Wisconsin State Journal asked Ted Bier, a senior research specialist here at the CFL about this incredibly cold winter, what it meant for the ice on Madison lakes, and if he’d ever seen anything like it.
It is, indeed, an unusual year, Bier confirmed.
The State Journal went on to say that:

In his 12 years in Madison, the thickest he’d ever seen the ice was 18 inches in the winter of 2002-03, but last week Bier measured the ice on Lake Mendota at about two feet thick.
“It is a unique year for sure,” Bier said. “The Dane County rule is that there are no vehicles on the lakes, and ATVs have to have floats. That makes sense for a lot of years, but this year you could drive an 18-wheeler straight out on Lake Mendota and not have the least worry of it falling through. Two feet of ice is incredibly strong.”

While we would NEVER, EVER advise actually driving a semi out on the ice (also, illegal), anyone who enjoys the frozen surface of our lakes for fishing, skiing, skating and more will tell you it’s been a good year.

Recreational opportunities abound on a frozen Lake Mendota.
Recreational opportunities abound on a frozen Lake Mendota.

The reason Ted can speak about the past 12 years of ice data, is that he’s been the one collecting it, along with a ton of other information like water chemistry, temperature and plankton samples as part of routine sampling for the North Temperate Lakes Long-Term Ecological Research program an NSF-funded attempt to get long-term data on ecosystems across North America.
Ted and undergraduate research assistant, Kirsten Rhude recently headed out on Lake Mendota as part of their winter sampling routine and sent back these pictures.

You can read the full WSJ article here.

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