An Historical Look At Ice On Lake George

It is the annual question as the weather turns cold: Was Lake George going to freeze? If so, when?

Lake George Ice in Harris Bay
Ice in Harris Bay, January 31, 2017

The topic of conversation makes for some interesting discussions, and with the following information, you have the potential to win a bar bet: Do you know when Lake George, on average, fully freezes? When was the earliest? Latest? How many years has the Lake NOT completely frozen?

For more than 100 years, the Lake George Association has been documenting dates regarding Lake George ice: When the Lake has completely frozen over, years that it has not frozen over, and when it has completely thawed.

Those connected to the LGA on Facebook heard that in 2017 Lake George “ice in” was on Monday, Feb. 13, and officially “ice out” was Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017. It was the shortest (13 days frozen) ice coverage for the Lake in history. The next shortest: 29 days in 1949.

On average, the Lake fully freezes by Jan. 19. So this year, it was a month later than average.

But if you were a betting person, January would definitely be the best guess, as it is fully frozen 72 percent of the time in that month.

If that trivia answer (or bar bet) needs to be more specific, you could say the Lake would be fully frozen on either the second week or fourth week of the month. That happens 62% of the time that it freezes in January.

So, like this year, if it didn’t freeze in January, when did it historically freeze?

Lake George has frozen completely in December only five times in the last 107 years, with the last time in the winter of 2008-09, when it froze on December 30.

That’s not the earliest, though. The earliest time we have recorded (remember, since we started keeping records in 1908-09) was December 20, 1980.

It has frozen completely in February 15 times, with the most recent being this year (next most recent was 2006). The latest freeze date on record was on Feb 29(!) in the year of the first Olympics in Lake Placid: 1932.

Of course, everyone remembers last winter when the region recorded a temperature of 68 degrees on Christmas Day – shattering temperature records that went back many years. Lake George never fully froze last year – although we did have ice in many of the bays. The records show that the Lake also didn’t freeze completely in 1919, 1991, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2012, and 2013. That translates to no ice in about 10 percent of the years where records exist.

When the Lake does freeze, it is frozen solid for an average of about 76 days. But don’t worry, those who drink water directly from the Lake still have access to their drinking water! Most intake pipes are located below the depth of the ice – even when it has been frozen for a long time.

The Lake has been frozen for 95 days or more (more than three full months) in 26 of the past 107 years. The latest year in that series was 2009, when it was frozen for 95 days.

The longest it has been frozen? 121 days in 1983-84 (December 24, 1983 to April 23, 1984).

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Lake George Association

Lake George Association