After two years of record-shattering extremes for lake ice-out dates, what will this spring bring?
With heavy trucks still rumbling on ice roads well out onto area lakes this week, it’s anybody’s guess when temperatures will be warm enough to create open water.
In 2012, records were set across the state for one of the earliest March dates for ice free lakes. In 2013, records fell like dominoes for the latest ice-out in history in May.
The Minnesota Climatology Working Group (MCWG) reported the 2013 ice-out was three weeks late across the central portion of the state.
Lakes were still ice-covered for the 2013 Governor’s Fishing Opener, which was moved to open river water near Park Rapids. This year’s May 8-11 opener is slated for Gull Lake and hosted by the Brainerd Lakes Chamber and Grand View Lodge in collaboration with the Nisswa Chamber of Commerce.
Will the weather cooperate this year?
“To set the stage for the long lasting ice cover, one can look into the month of April and the first half of May,” the MCWG reported.
This year, the forecast calls for a cooler than normal April, May and June. The mild and downright hot temperatures of 80s, 90s and even 100s in May last year proved to be the final straw in breaking the back of lake ice.
“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,” the MCWG reported.
Records that stood for more than 60, 80 and even 108 years fell last year with new ice-out dates set from late April through mid-May. Mille Lacs Lake ice-out record of May 16, 2013, ended a 58-year-old record for the latest date set back on May 15, 1950.
So what made last year hang on to the ice long enough to rewrite the record books?
Last year, the jet stream in April brought several low-pressure systems from Canada.
“These storms brought unseasonably cool temperatures as well as snowfall,” the MCWG reported. “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.”
Overcast conditions last year enhanced the snowpack’s life, the MCWG reported.
This year the snow depth is lightening to the west, according to the National Oceanographic and Aeronautic Administration models showing a trace to 2 inches by Wadena and Staples, 4-8 inches around Little Falls and 4-20 inches across most of Crow Wing, Cass and Aitkin counties. The recent snowfall, about an inch in Brainerd, added to existing snow depth although the heavy amounts fell farther north. More snow is in the forecast.