What is “ice out”? To a Vermonter, it’s the date when “the ice goes out” and usually refers to the timing of the break of full ice cover on a lake or pond. As winter temperatures warm, ice closure is beginning later and ending earlier. The Vermont Climate Assessment states that spring is starting two to three days earlier per decade.
Source: Joe's Pond Association
“The weather this year has been very unusual…” stated the Joe’s Pond Association in its 2016 update on the status of the yearly ice out contest in West Danville, Vermont. Indeed, winter temperatures are a hot topic of conversation around this pond, pun intended. Graphed above are the number of days that passed each calendar year before the ice gave out. The latest ice-out on record occurred 126 days into the year on May 6, 1992. The earliest occured 94 days into the year on April 5, 2010.
The Joe’s Pond Ice Out contest started in 1988 as a friendly wager designed by summer resident Jules Chatot. Local camp owners rigged up an electric clock tethered to a cinder block on a wooden pallet placed about 100 feet out on the ice. For just a dollar, anyone could place their bet on the date and time that the block and pallet would sink through the melting ice, thereby stopping the clock.
Tickets sales were initially logged in a pocket notebook. Today, the contest has grown to over 12,000 entries each year and are managed by a paid data specialist. Proceeds of the contest are split evenly between the winner and the Joe’s Pond Association.
Of course, the sinking block on Joe’s Pond does not always correlate precisely with the break of full ice cover on the pond. But it’s a good proximity… and worth tracking for both the science and the win.