Ice breakup dates from 1968 to 1988 were examined for 20 Wisconsin lakes to determine whether consistent interannual and long-term changes exist. Each ice record had a trend toward earlier breakup dates, as demonstrated by a negative slope with time, indicating a recent warming trend. The average change in breakup dates was 0.82 d earlier per year for the lakes in southern Wisconsin, which was more extreme than that for the northern Wisconsin lakes (0.45 d yr-1). Interannual variation in breakup dates was related to the warm phase of El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) episodes. El Nino events occurred five times during this period (1965, 1972, 1976, 1982, and 1986). Average breakup dates were significantly earlier than average (5-14 d) during the mature phase of El Nino. This variability was affected by the location of the lake: El Nino-related variation was more evident for the southern lakes than the northern lakes. This difference was caused by the average date of breakup for the southern lakes being in late March directly following the period when air temperatures were strongly related to El Nino events, whereas the average dates of breakup of the northern lakes was in mid- to late April following a period when air temperatures were not significantly related to El Nino events. Overall, the interannual and long-term patterns across Wisconsin were relatively consistent, indicating that recent warming and El Nino- related variation are regional climatic responses.
Additional publication details
Evidence of recent warming and El Nino-related variations in ice breakup of Wisconsin lakes