Ask Abe: Frozen Lake Mendota

An Alum

What’s the record duration of ice cover on Lake Mendota?

Abe

Ice, ice, baby! Abe went straight to the experts at the Wisconsin State Climatology Office and the UW Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. Mendota’s record ice duration is 161 days, recorded during the 1880–81 season. The lake froze over on November 23, 1880, and didn’t reopen until May 3, 1881 — the earliest closing and second-latest opening in recorded history. The shortest duration of ice cover (so far) was only 21 days, and that was recorded in the 2001–02 season. For the 2018–19 season, Mendota has frozen, reopened, and frozen again, which has happened only six other times. The first freeze this season lasted only seven days: December 15 to December 21. The lake didn’t close again until January 10. The earliest opening of Mendota occurred on February 27, 1988. We’re no climatologists, but we’re pretty confident we won’t be beating that record this year. The state climatology office has been recording the ice-on and ice-off dates since 1852, which you can check out here.