Climate is long-term and weather is short-run, professionals in those fields keep reminding us. And this late, warm (for now) winter is largely due to the influence of El Niño, the warming phenomenon caused by unusually toasty ocean currents, many meteorologists say.
But Minneapolis Park Superintendent Jayne Miller also sees a portent of climate change in the late ice-up of the park system’s lakes this winter.
The last of them, Harriet and Calhoun (or Bde Maka Ska), finished icing over on Jan. 4. That’s only the third time in the past 52 years of record-keeping when the freeze-up hasn’t been complete until January.
What has Miller suggesting that a warming climate, rather than year-to-year weather variation, may be in play is that the last late icing came recently, in 2011. That could be a coincidence of weather, or it may be because the climate is warming.
For the record, the icing over of the park system lakes took more than a month, with small Birch Pond at Wirth Park reported frozen over on Nov. 30.
Miller’s larger point was that the ice still isn’t safe. She said ice depths are highly variable now, with a range from 1 to 6 inches. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recommends that people wait until ice is 4 inches thick before walking onto it. The cold snap predicted for this weekend may take care of that.
But even then, the city’s prime skating venue at Lake of the Isles isn’t likely to open until sometime into next week. Although it’s on the faster-freezing shallow north arm of Isles, the rink depends on trucks to haul pumps onto the lake ice to flood the surface with additional water. The DNR recommends a thickness of eight to 12 inches for even small vehicles.
Skaters can get daily updates on the status of rinks on the Park Board’s website (minneapolisparks.org). The park system typically tries to have rinks ready by the holiday break for schools.
Kite festival canceled
Meanwhile, the annual Winter Kite Festival on Lake Harriet has been canceled because of warmer-than-normal weather.
The popular, kid-friendly event was scheduled for Jan. 16. But the Park Board evaluated ice on Wednesday and found that it remains unsafe, according to an e-mail from the East Harriet Farmstead Neighborhood Association.
The neighborhood group said it was decided earlier that there would not be a backup date for the event.