While the Upper Saranac Foundations ice-in records are limited, this year is the latest known date for Upper Saranac Lake to freeze over and stay frozen. After a brief freeze over the week of December 12, warmer than normal temperatures caused the southern end of the lake to open up and stay open until January 9.
The northern end of the lake and surrounding ponds have been frozen since early December. Ice-in is defined as when the entire lake surface is covered with ice.
The Upper Saranac Foundation has ice-out records dating back to 1998, but ice-in records have only been kept since 2012. The earliest ice-in recorded was on Dec. 5, 2014, and the latest prior to this year was in 2016 on Jan. 5. While USL’s ice duration records are very limited, nearby lakes such as Mirror Lake in Lake Placid have records dating back as far as 1903. Mirror Lake on average freezes 17 days later than when recordings began.
Mirror Lake’s records indicate a significant reduction in the duration of ice cover over time, with current ice cover on average 24 days shorter than it was in 1903. Mirror Lake’s mean duration of ice cover over the entire record is 140 days. The mean duration since 2000 is 124 days.
Long term data like this helps us understand how our environment is changing. Research has shown that warming water temperatures and prolonged stratification are a threat to lake trout across their native range. The changes observed in the local ice record data reflect similar changes observed across North America. These changes represent a potential change in the habitat suitability for cold water fish like lake trout and vulnerability to introductions of non-native and invasive plants and animals.
For more information about USL’s ice-in and out records, visit usfoundation.net/programs/ice-in-ice-out