Late ‘ice-out’ likely this year

Are you dreaming about the sparkling freedom of an open lake?
Nature certainly is working towards making this happen, although at a much slower pace than last year when all the lakes in the district were free of ice by April 10.
This year, there’s still as much as 20 inches of ice in places—even though the tributaries gush with run-off.
However, this makes for an exciting time to observe animals. Many areas close to the shoreline are exploding with life.
This past week, I perched myself by a shallow bay and within a few minutes watched a mink slither and slide, beavers mew and chew, bald eagles soar, and mallards flap.
Then on my way home, I spotted a wolf sauntering slowly on the ice, far off in the distance.
What a glorious time.
But even with all this condensed animal activity, I’m still really looking forward to “break-up.” Also, I’m following the Fort Frances Times’ weekly poll about when it will happen.
As of press time, 61% of 365 responders predicted Rainy Lake will open between May 1 and May 15. And looking at Clearwater Lake (which tends to clear around the same time as Rainy), this seems reasonable.
My husband and I have a bet going on, as well. I’ve chosen May 7 as my “ice-out” date while he’s predicting April 29.
If I’m right, this year’s “ice-out” still will be far from the record latest time (May 22 for Rainy Lake back in 1950).
My prediction isn’t a popular one, especially since it requires cool weather, but I like winning. In fact, I even did a little research before placing my guess.
?What I learned is that ice melts from the bottom up. This detail, added to what we all know (that snow blocks the light needed to warm the water), tells me that we’re behind the average May 3 break-up date.
In other words, the transfer of light is really important, which isn’t happening right now because of the recent snow. Plus, the ice isn’t creating the optimal greenhouse effect of trapping heat.
But it’s not just this little bit of reading that helped me to place my bet. I also augured some holes (and froze my arm) in the guise of research. What I discovered is that the ice (not including air pockets) is still hard in most places.
There’s two-three inches of soft ice on the top (above a small layer of water) and then 12-17 inches of harder ice below. The underbelly of the ice has holes due to a few warm spells, but it is firm.
So, I think it will be at least a week before the ice really starts to form those really long, vertical candles needed for the heavy transfer of heat, light, and liquid.
But, when this does happen, the finale is near. Miles and miles of delicate crystals will shift in the wind, and animals will spread out in the distance.
The sounds will change, too. Depending on the waves, the tinsels will sing and whistle, or they will clatter like mountains of tiny tambourines.
Either way, the last stage is brief, and will be followed by a sparkling blue freedom once again.

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