Ask Abe: Ice, Ice, Baby

An Alum

What’s the thickest that the ice on Lake Mendota has ever been?

Abe

Lake Mendota — often called the “most studied lake in the world” — is many Badgers’ favorite hangout in the summertime. But even in winter, the lake remains a popular destination. Some winter events, such as Hoofers’ annual Winter Carnival, rely on the lake freezing fully. On average, the frozen layer peaks around 19 inches thick, according to UW–Madison’s Center for Limnology. In recent memory, the ice was thickest during the 2003–04 season, when it reached 25 inches. Allegedly, the thickest the ice has ever gotten was around 30 inches — two and a half feet — which took place during the 1870s. The mid- to late 1800s also hold the records for the earliest freeze, latest thaw, and longest duration of ice cover.