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Finally: a freeze for Lake Mendota

Lake Mendota has officially frozen over, after a long warm spell that left many wondering when (and if) the lake would ever freeze.

After a cold front drove temperatures below zero over the weekend and winds died down, Lyle Anderson, office manager at the Wisconsin State Climatology Office, knew the conditions were right for “instant ice.” Residents may have noticed a “steam fog” hanging over the lakes, created when cold air moves over warmer water, also a “harbinger of freeze.”

Sure enough, both Mendota and Monona had a full cover of ice by Monday, January 11 (the official “ice on” date), which had to hold for at least 24 hours before being declared this morning. Lake Wingra, which is much smaller and shallower, froze on December 30.

Though the lakes look solid, don’t be misled: ice is still thin. The Wisconsin DNR recommends waiting for three inches of ice before venturing out, and always walking with a friend. If you plan on ice fishing with friends and gear, at least four inches of ice is best.

Not off the hook!

While a freeze has been declared, our lakes are still facing real threats from climate change. Long-term records show that the average ice season on Lake Mendota has shortened by about two weeks on either end since the 1850s. The record low? A 2001-2002 ice season of just 21 days, compared to a 105-day median season.

This Thursday morning, January 14th, Dr. John Magnuson, renowned limnologist and lake ice expert, will present on this fascinating topic for the Yahara Lakes 101 science café series at The Edgewater. The presentation runs from 8-9 a.m., with questions and answers with Magnuson to follow.

Predictions = prizes

As part of the fifth annual Mendota Freeze Contest, Clean Lakes Alliance has awarded prizes donated by local businesses to the first several individuals that correctly guessed the freeze date.

Madison resident Corey Stelljes, who correctly guessed the freeze date at 7:47 a.m. on December 1st will take home the grand prize of a $1,000 gift card to Lands’ End. Belleville resident Tracy Shult, who won the grand prize two years ago, correctly guessed at 8:04 a.m., winning a two-night stay at The Wilderness Resort. Madison resident Caitlin Collies made the third-place guess at 8:12 a.m., winning two lift tickets to Tyrol Basin.

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