Climate Change

A strong el Nino and a warmer world resulted in a very short ice season.  It did not start until Early January and it ended in Early March...two months compaired to a more typical 3-1/2 to 4 months.  Short as it was, we had decent skating ice for almost the whole time.  A combination of relatively little snow and fluxuating temperatures that melted what little snow did fall kept us from being snowed out for more than a few days at a time.

The warmer world is concerning.  Much of Lake Champlain did not freeze this season.   As things continue to get warmer we will have less ice and it is likely to be, overall, more dodgy.  On the grand scale the outcomes for the world and its inhabitants is looking grim in the medium to long term unless we humans really get serious about understanding climate change and taking action.  

If you are not fully up to speed on climate change I suggest reading the New York Times article Short Answers to Hard Questions about Climate Change.  It gives a concise overview of the problem, the likely outcomes and what we can do about it.










Every couple years we have found a loon on the ice in Northern New England, sometimes dead and sometimes alive.  This year we found about 19.  There are a couple of possible explanations.  The  month late start to the ice season in the Champlain Valley allowed them to stay until their molting feathers left them flightless.   And/Or they may have also been trapped by ice building around them, cutting them off from the 80+feet of water they need to take off.  

The holes that they kept open by swimming and diving were oval shaped and had a wide splashout rim with a few feathers and other bird bits on them.  They  had an area of roughly 150 square feet per bird during warm spells and they partially froze during cold periods.  

By far the biggest group was nine birds found on Lake Champlain in late February.  I expect the lack of any meaningful snowstorms let them survive this far into the winter. Blowing snow would have quickly filled in their hole leading to starvation or predation by coyotes or eagles. The often windy and rough breakup of the large expance of ice  where the birds were found was also though to present a signifiant risk to the birds.

This has been the warmest winter on record and one of the most snowless in the Champlain Valley. It seems  likely that this is an example of the many effects of anthromorphic warming and one more reason why we must get a grip on our carbon addiction.

Click here for an excellent article about the rescue of effort for the nine birds written by Phyl Newbeck that appeared in the Burlington Free Press on March 14th, 2016.   




Great Skating Season

Skatable ice did not arrive until the beginning of the year in Northern Vermont but once it came we have had good ice for all but a few days over the past two months.  Snow has been sparce (landing on the coast or the midwest instead.  Temperatures have frequently gotten above freezing to help melt any snow that fell and occasional rain storms have zambonied the drifts and lumps off the surface.  Thickness is about half  what has been typical in past years.  


Very Late Start

Seeking first ice on Sterling Mouintain in NW Vermont.  Sterling pond is at 3000 feet so it usually gets snowed out sortly after freezing however this year it offered a couple of days of excellent skating on 3" of black ice.  

Sterling Pond with a thin, fluffy snow layer. 

 Unfortuneately, after our pre-Thanksgiving skate,  the weather has slipped back to being too warm and too cloudy to start to freeze the ponds we usually begin the ice season on.  It looks like we will not get lowland ice until after New Years which is the latest in the 40 years I have been on the ice.