Delayed ice-in on Minnesota lakes

Mild November and early December producing plenty of open water.

NASA MODIS 250-meter visible satellite image Wednesday 2
NASA MODIS 250-meter visible satellite image Wednesday
NASA via University of Wisconsin-Madison

Here’s another impact from our mild late fall in Minnesota. Many Minnesota lakes are running behind the average ice-in date.

Temperatures soared into the 40s once again Wednesday afternoon in the Twin Cities.

Temperatures Wednesday afternoon
Temperatures Wednesday afternoon at MSP Airport.
NOAA/FAA

NASA’s MODIS Terra satellite shot Wednesday clearly shows plenty of open water across central and southern Minnesota. Most lakes in northeast Minnesota do have ice cover.

NASA MODIS 250-meter visible satellite image Wednesday 2
NASA MODIS 250-meter visible satellite image Wednesday
NASA via University of Wisconsin-Madison

Most of the bellwether lakes in central Minnesota are still mostly open water. The median ice-in date for Gull Lake is December 1.

Here’s a look at median ice-in dates for Minnesota lakes from the Minnesota DNR Climate Working Group.

Median lake ice-in dates
Median lake ice-in dates
Minnesota DNR Climate Working Group

Twin Cities area lakes median ice-in dates range from late November for smaller lakes like Wirth Lake, to around December 11 for bigger metro lakes like Lake Harriet.

Twin Cities median ice-in dates
Twin Cities median ice-in dates
Minnesota DNR Climate Working Group

Nights below freezing and highs in the 40s will continue for southern Minnesota this week. We may see some ice up on smaller lakes, but the bigger lakes still have plenty of stored heat to lose before they will ice over.

Climate change pattern

The long term trends of our warming climate in Minnesota are reducing the duration and quality of ice-cover on Minnesota lakes. Winters in Minnesota have warmed about 5 degrees on average since 1970. Minnesota winters are among the fastest-warming in the nation.

Winter season warming
Winter season warming
NOAA data via Climate Central

Many lakes have lost a week of ice-cover in fall and spring on average.

CC Ice out Osakis
Historical ice out for Lake Osakis via Minnesota DNR.
Minnesota DNR

The reduced ice cover has impacts on the winter resort industry, fisheries, and water quality.

With climate change, winter is increasingly not what it used to be in Minnesota.

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