Recap of 2013 Ice Out

2013 will be remembered as having one of the latest ice out seasons in years. The ice out dates in general were about ten days later than the median across southern Minnesota and three weeks late across central Minnesota. With the warm conditions by mid May, ice out was about two weeks late across the far north. The first ice out date reported to the State Climatology office was Iowa Lake on April 8 in Martin County with the final ice out being Trout Lake in Cook County on May 20. A few lakes with long records set new late ice out dates such as Green Lake and Minnewaska.


Lake Osakis in Todd County has ice out records going back to 1867. May 13, 2013 was the second latest on record for Osakis. The latest on record for Osakis is 1950 with a May 14 date. Ironically, 2012 saw the second earliest ice out with March 21.

To set the stage for the long lasting ice cover, one can look into the month of April and the first half of May. Coming off the heels of a chilly meteorological spring, April started off with lows in the teens across Minnesota, along with some snow cover. Instead of gradually warming up to normal temperatures, April maintained below average temperatures and above average snowfall due to the placement of the jet stream, dragging cool air down from Canada.

The jet stream formed in a way in April that brought several low-pressure systems from northern Canada right into Minnesota. These storms brought unseasonably cool temperatures as well as snowfall. Since the temperatures were cool enough to sustain snow cover, it became an integral part to keeping the ice on the lakes. The snowfall contributed to ice over lakes as the snow layer kept the heat from reaching the ice. Additionally, the foggy and overcast conditions associated with many of the events enhanced the lifetime of the snowpack. The coolness eventually faded as some warmer events came through in late April, allowing the remaining ice on metro area lakes to melt away. Early May brought a return to the cold weather pattern and more snow. Typically, the jet stream retreats northward as the summer approaches due to large temperature gradients, yet Minnesota still saw pockets of cooler air sneaking into Minnesota at the beginning of the month. Many of the larger walleye lakes in northern Minnesota, and Mille Lacs as well remained ice covered for the fishing opener on May 11.

The weather became mild and then downright hot by mid May, with the 14th of May being a large catalyst for ice out dates. With dry air coming off of the Rockies, most areas around the state saw 80s and 90s and some locations reporting over 100 degrees for a maximum temperature. The large northern lakes lost their ice within a few days after this heat event and only the larger Boundary Waters lakes held onto their ice beyond May 17.

Here are some well-known lakes that have set new records in 2013.

Lake Name        County         New Record      Old Record       Period of Record 
Minnewaska       Pope           May 11, 2013    May 5, 1950     108 years
Green            Kandiyohi       May  8, 2013    May 7, 1951      83 years
Mille Lacs       Mille Lacs     May 16, 2013    May 15, 1950     58 years
Big Stone        Big Stone      May  8, 2013    April 29, 1950   62 years
Calhoun          Hennepin       April 28, 2013  April 28, 1965   68 years (tie)
Last modified: April 1, 2014
Compiled with assistance from John McCarty, Climatology Volunteer
Pete Boulay, DNR Climatologist
For more information contact: [email protected]


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