Early Lake Ice Out 2016?

Accumulated Degrees from 32F Twin Cities: Dec 1, 2015 to March 2, 2016
Accumulated Degrees from 32F Twin Cities: Dec 1, 2015 to March 6, 2016
Courtesy: MNDNR State Climatology Office


As the days warm and the snow cover fades away, attention is then turned to the status of lake ice out across the state. Predicting lake ice out is very tricky and much depends on the weather conditions for March, April (and sometimes May.) However, an inking of when the ice will leave the lakes earlier or later than the median ice out may be gleaned from the accumulation of degrees above and below 32 degrees for the winter. For example, an average daily temperature of zero, 32 negative degree days were tallied for that day. A really cold winter can really add up. A benign winter, not so much.

Some of the latest ice out years on record, like 1950 had quite a few cold points. Some of the early ice out years such as 2012 had relatively few. The most mild winter on record was 1877-78 and 1878 is the record early ice out for lakes with records that stretch that far back.

How does the winter of 2015-16 stack up? While not as mild as 1877-78 or even 2011-12 it has been a fairly mild winter. The ice was not excessively thick on the lakes and this may help ice out tend to be before the median dates. By how many days or weeks? That all depends on what Spring 2016 brings.

Last modified: March 7, 2016
For more information contact: climate@umn.edu