Guest Post: Madison’s Lakes are Thawed for Spring

Madison’s Lake Monona is ice free and ready for Spring!

It’s no joke- the April Fool’s Day view in Madison was one of open water, retreating ice and a few brave American coots and other waterfowl already taking advantage. That’s right, our “ice-on” season is over. Lake Mendota logged 86 days of ice cover, while Lake Monona was frozen for 97 this year – both numbers were right in keeping with the new normal of just about 3 months of ice cover we’re seeing in our warmer world.

Our friends at the Clean Lakes Alliance headed out with Wisconsin assistant state climatologist, Ed Hopkins as he made the call. See below:

“Ice off” declaration from Wisconsin State Climatology Office

The Wisconsin State Climatology Office declared “ice off” for Lake Mendota and Lake Monona on Sunday, March 31, 2019. Lake Wingra’s “ice off” was declared on March 28, 2019. Lake Mendota recorded 86 days of ice during the winter of 2018/19, while Lake Monona had 97 days of ice and Lake Wingra had 111 days of ice cover.

A long history of ice records

Lake ice records for Lake Mendota and Lake Monona have been kept since the winter of 1852/53. An oral history of determining ice cover has been passed down within the Wisconsin State Climatology Office. Climatologists today try to follow the tradition to their best ability in an effort to preserve a continuity of lake ice data. To be determined open in the spring, the lakes should maintain less than 50% ice cover.

Lake ice tradition states the deepest part of Lake Mendota, which extends from Picnic Point to Maple Bluff, should be clear enough to row a boat across. This rule stems from the era of E. A. Birge, University of Wisconsin President in the early 1900s, and Chancey Juday, pioneer of North American Limnology. The two frequently spent time on Lake Mendota, and the ice between Picnic Point and Maple Bluff determined if they could row a case of beer over to their friends in Maple Bluff. Read more about the history of determining lake ice.Wisconsin Assistant State Climatologist Ed Hopkins discusses how ice cover is determined on our Madison lakes. March 29, 2019.

Ed Hopkins, Wisconsin asst. state climatologist, surveys ice cover on Madison’s lakes.

Clean Lakes Alliance takes an ice cover tour

Karin Swanson from Clean Lakes Alliance rode along with Wisconsin Assistant State Climatologist, Ed Hopkins, on Friday, March 29, 2019 to learn about determining ice cover on the lakes. Continue reading –>