Madison Lakes Are Now Frozen

Never mind the open spot that is still visible from my vantage point on Lake Monona, but the State Climatology Office reports that both Lake Mendota and Monona are now frozen.

Since the term frozen over or iced over can be somewhat subjective let us just all agree that winter is here, and the lakes are frozen.

On January 1st I posted about the first ice on Lake Monona, and a picture.


Lake Mendota’s freeze comes more  than two weeks after Lake Monona’s, which froze on New Year’s Eve. Lake Wingra  was reported frozen on Dec. 21.

For the 2011-12 winter, Monona and  Wingra froze Jan. 3 and Dec. 11, respectively.

The State Climatology Office admits  that determining the freeze date is not an exact science, but it has maintained  a database of ice cover records dating to the mid-19th century for those three  lakes.

To keep the records as consistent  as possible, the office uses observational methods, passed down by oral  tradition, for determining when the lakes are open or frozen.

Lakes Monona and Wingra have a  general, somewhat subjective “50 percent covered” rule for determining the lake  is iced over, with a few preferred vantage points for assessing ice cover.

Applying the same rule to Lake  Mendota has been more of a challenge historically because of the lake’s shape  and irregular shoreline.

Today, the Climatology Office uses  a vantage point on the 13th floor of the Atmospheric and Spaces Sciences  Building, 1225 W. Dayton St. For observers in the 1800s, there was no vantage  point sufficient in height.

A secondary criteria was developed  for that lake: whether one can row a boat between Picnic Point and Maple Bluff.  It emerged from the era of pioneering University of Wisconsin limnologists E.A.  Birge and Chancey Juday, who frequently used that method to transport a case of  beer to friends in Maple Bluff.

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