Climatologists change Lake Minnetonka historic ice-out

  • Article by: KELLY SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 26, 2013 - 11:14 PM

The big lake’s latest ice-out has long been pegged as May 8, 1856. Turns out the record is fresher and more in reach.

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Late last week, snow piled up atop docks and the shoreline at Tonka Bay Marina. Late-season ice on Lake Minnetonka has delayed many activities, including recreational boating. Last year the ice went out on the lake March 21. This year several events have been postponed, including an annual fishing contest.

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It just got a little more likely for Lake Minnetonka to make history this year.

With this year’s delay in ice melt running into the final stretch of April, more scrutiny has been put on climate history, leading the Minnesota State Climatology Office to question what has long been reported as the latest ice-out: May 8, 1856.

That date is now being scrapped by climatologists as they review historical recollections and data of other lakes that had a mid-April ice-out in 1856.

“It wasn’t fitting the pattern,” said Pete Boulay, a state climatologist.

That means the claim to fame for the latest Lake Minnetonka ice-out now moves a year later but three days earlier: May 5, 1857.

Either way, one of the Twin Cities’ most popular lakes isn’t likely to break that record, especially with this weekend’s sudden warmth sending temperatures into the 60s and 70s.

Boulay said the ice-out, defined by the Freshwater Society as being able to travel by small boat from one shore to another, is likely to come before May 5 unless temperatures fall dramatically.

On Lake Minnetonka, anglers, boaters, sailboat racers and residents alike are anxiously awaiting ice-out. Last year, the state’s ninth-largest lake was ice-free on March 21. It’s been nearly half a century since the ice lasted into May.

“People have always kept track of these things,” Freshwater Society spokesman Pat Sweeney said. “People find it intriguing.”

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