March triggered a deep-down biological alarm clock—ring-ring, ring-ring—that’s been jangling in my ear. “Spring thaw.” “Snow drops.” “Seed the tomatoes and eggplant…” And yet, snow and ice and cooold temps endure. It feels like springtime may still be a long way off. (Rosslyn Redux)
It’s hard to remember that Lake Champlain froze over only about a month ago. It seems like many months ago! And I’ve been hearing the same question again and again:
When will Lake Champlain thaw?
It’s known as “ice out”, the point at which the ice breaks up and the surface of the lake is no longer navigable by even the most intrepid skaters, skiers, and snowshoers.
Looking out my window in recent nights with a swollen moon reflecting across the lake’s snow-drifted surface it’s hard to believe that soon we will experience the spring thaw. Yesterday with blue bird skies overhead and sunlight shimmering on the ice stretching from shore to shore (except for a serpentine channel maintained by the Essex-Charlotte ferry) it seemed even less likely. Will Lake Champlain thaw? Ever?!?!
Lake Champlain Ice Out 2014
As unlikely as it may seem now, Lake Champlain will thaw—maybe as soon as a week or two from today—and when it does it will likely result in high water and flooding. After Lake Champlain’s history breaking 2011 floods, I find myself getting a little uneasy as we anticipate spring ice out. There’s plenty of snow packed into the Adirondacks and Green Mountains.
It would be helpful to be able to predict when the Lake Champlain thaw will occur and what sort of flooding to expect when it does, but I’ll leave that mystical science to the meteorological oracles. For now I’ll venture a guess that complete ice out is still a ways off considering how much temperature change will be necessary to overcome that massive sheet of ice.
“Looking back at the last six or seven years, the northern parts of the lake and down in the southern part where it’s shallower those freeze over every year, but the broad lake, it’s been since 2007 since we’ve seen it freeze over,” says National Weather Service meteorologist Andy Nash.
When the lake ices, the heat energy stored in the water has to escape. That means there’s no instant freeze. It takes very cold temperatures in late fall and early winter to gradually bring the water temperature down below 32.
“So the prolonged cold that we saw in December and into early January helped to accelerate that cooling of the lake and finally get down to 32 and started the ice to form,” says Nash. (WCAX.COM)
In other words, that’s a massive, frigid thermal sink glimmering in the sunlight. Certainly warm weather and rain and windy conditions could accelerate ice out, but I imagine it will take a pretty significant uptick on the day and night thermometer before we’ll see a significant change. But the Lake Champlain thaw will come, and when it does we should prepare for some inevitable flooding.
When Will Lake Champlain Thaw?
Care to venture a guess when Lake Champlain will thaw? Share your best guess, and pass along any spring flood wisdom you may have gathered over the years. Your Essex neighbors will thank you whether or not the waters rise and rise and rise…
- Lake Champlain Frozen, Flashback to March 2005 (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Lake Champlain Freezing Over (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Lake Champlain Is 99 Percent Frozen (weaselzippers.us)