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Waters still open on lakes Mendota, Monona

Waters still open on lakes Mendota, Monona

  • Updated

Winter has been a bust so far in Madison, not only for those trying to ski or sled, but for those who would normally take to the frozen expanses of Lakes Mendota and Monona.

We are about to turn the calendar page to January, and there are still large areas of open water on the two big lakes as of Dec. 27, an unusual but not completely unheard of event here, according to UW-Madison's Stephen Carpenter.

Carpenter, director of the Center for Limnology (the study of lakes), said in a UW-Madison news bureau article that we should "expect the unexpected."

The average date when Lake Mendota is completely frozen over is Dec. 20, according to the Wisconsin State Climatology Office.

Lake Monona, considerably smaller than Lake Mendota, usually freezes over by Dec. 15.

Lake Mendota is 9,842 acres in size, Lake Monona is 3,274 acres.

Carpenter said it's not unusual for some part of Lake Mendota to be open in late December.

"It's not unheard of," he said. "Since 1856, there have been 24 years when the lake froze over in January, but late freezes are becoming more common."

The average freeze date of Lake Mendota for the first 125 years of record keeping was Dec. 18. But since 1980, the average freeze date has been Dec. 27.

"Since 1990, the lake has frozen in January in seven of those years, which is 29 percent of all the late freezes, taking place in only 20 years," Carpenter said.

The latest freezeover of Lake Mendota was in the winter of 1931-32 when the lake didn't get a full cover of ice until Jan. 30. The earliest Lake Mendota froze was in 1880 when it happened by Nov. 23.

Once the lakes freeze, when will we see the thaw?

State records show the earliest Lake Mendota's ice has opened was on Feb. 27, 1998.

That's 62 days from now.

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