Snowed In - Thinking of "Ice-Out"

Monday, March 20, 2017
By: Diane W. Fish - Adirondack Council Deputy Director

Uploaded Image: /uploads/Ice out blog/IceOut2_small.jpg
Ice out on Cascade Lake
In spite of the three feet of fresh snow on the ground from a whopper of a March snowstorm, the signs of spring are starting to wave the flag, announcing that the snow and ice will melt and the miracle of spring will – eventually – come to the Adirondacks. 

“Ice-out” is a spring phenomenon that Adirondackers keep an eye on. When the ice is out, spring is here.

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of ice-out is the disappearance of ice from the surface of a body of water (as a lake) as a result of thawing.

March 21 is just another date on the calendar if there is still ice on the lake(s), and in much of the Adirondack Park the ice is rarely out before mid to late April.

Uploaded Image: /uploads/Ice out blog/IceOut_small.jpgBut for the important annual wagers on the exact date and time of ice out that take place around the Adirondacks, much more specific criteria are required.

According to the recent annual ice-out fundraising letter from the Lake Placid Volunteer Ambulance Service, there are different criteria for the two lakes in town.  Mirror Lake: “lake is substantially open from village to Boathouse, shore to shore, maybe ice left in end bays,” and Lake Placid: “navigate around the lake including thru the straits.”  (You can join the fun and support the ambulance service by calling 518-523-9512). 

The fascination with the date and time of ice-out is bolstered by the variation from year to year. Citizen ice-out (and ice-in) enthusiasts have kept records for generations, providing important information for those playing the guessing game and for scientists working to understand the patterns and causes of the variations.

Uploaded Image: /uploads/Ice out blog/IceOut3_small.jpgFor a sampling of the statistics, you might enjoy perusing  the 1998-2016 records for Upper Saranac Lake (criteria: when you can boat to the deepest  part of the lake from some shore point) or the records dating back to 1911 from the Brant Lake Association (criteria: "The first day that a boat could be piloted through open water from the Pilgrims Camp bridge to the Palmer's bridge.") 

Professor Curt Stager of Paul Smiths College has published numerous articles and books on climate change with the Adirondack Park serving as one of several laboratories for him and his students.  Ice samples and the historical record of citizen scientists contribute important data for their research. Since the mid-1800s, freeze dates have occurred later and thaw dates have occurred earlier, both shifting at an average rate of 0.8 days to one day per decade, according to data collected and analyzed by the Environmental Protection Agency, including data from the Adirondacks.  

Last week when the temperatures felt like spring and many lakes had pockets of exposed water, it was tempting to start envisioning an early ice-out.  Although the ice-out is trending toward an earlier date, it would still be unusual for a March ice-out. 

Lake Placid’s past ice-out dates:Uploaded Image: /uploads/Ice out blog/IceOut4_small.jpg

2009: April 21
2010: April 8
2011: April 28
2012: March 26
2013: April 30
2014: May 2 (yes, MAY!)
2015: May 1 (yes, MAY!)
2016: April 3

When do you think we will be ice-out? Let us know on Twitter by tweeting us with your date and time guess at @AdirondackCouncil!


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Uploaded Image: /uploads/Forever Wild Day Blog/Diane FWD 14.jpg

Diane joined the Council staff in 2001 and works with the Board and Staff to raise the financial resources needed to support the Council's conservation and advocacy efforts on behalf of the Park. An important step in this process is keeping in touch with supporters in all 50 states to understand their interests and concerns about the Adirondack Park and to engage members in the Council’s advocacy efforts.

Diane shares other Council supporters' love of the Adirondacks, enjoys the Park's many outdoor recreation activities, and appreciates the astounding beauty of the Park every day.

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