Lake Campbell ice included in national lake-ice data repository


LAKE CAMPBELL — Lake Campbell froze over on Nov. 23-24.

Dates of freezing and thawing of Lake Campbell ice have been recorded for 34 years by the ice-watch committee of the Lake Campbell Sportsmen’s Club. The committee operates the Ralph Town Memorial Ice Monitoring Program.

The Campbell data are also part of the huge data set catalogued at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Wisconsin.

Former Lake Campbell resident Ralph Town began making ice-on and ice-off observations in 1989. Members of the ice-watch committee have continued his project, adding yearly information since Town died. The committee uses standardized methods at fixed transects across the lake to determine ice-on and ice-off times. The methods were borrowed from the Citizen Science project known as IceWatch USA.

Lake Campbell resident Ron Eggen, the lake’s ice-boating enthusiast, reports that since the Nov. 23 freeze-up, the lake remains smooth and 95% frozen except for a few small open places where the geese like to rest. The lake froze on Nov. 11 last year.

Climatologists say that weather is a short-term event whereas climate trends can’t be identified until there is 30-plus years of data. The 34-year data set at Lake Campbell is minimal compared to several lakes in the national data set.

There are nine lakes in the national data that have very long (100-plus years) ice data. Scientists at the data center report the following trends for the nine lakes:

  • The lakes are generally freezing later than they did in the past. Freeze dates have shifted later at a rate of roughly half a day to one-and-a-half days per decade.
  • Thaw dates for most of these lakes show a trend toward earlier ice breakup in the spring. Spring thaw dates have grown earlier by up to 24 days in the past 114 years.
  • The changes in lake freeze and thaw dates are consistent with other studies, that is, freeze dates have occurred later and thaw dates have occurred earlier.

The Campbell ice watchers say that these trends are not as clear in the 34-year Lake Campbell data because the data are messy. The messiness is evident in the way Lake Campbell freezes and thaws. This year’s one-day, quick freeze-up sometimes happens, but the lake can also freeze-up and open-up and freeze-up again several times through December.

The average ice-off, spring thaw date at Campbell is April 1. The spring thaw date is easier to determine exactly because the ice breaks up fast (usually in 24 hours), and afterward, the lake stays open.

The Campbell ice data does show that the number of days of ice cover has declined slightly over 34 years.

The Lake Campbell Sportsmen’s Club is in its 65th year of providing social events and outdoor educational information and activities to the Lake Campbell neighborhood and Brookings area. For more information on the Sportsmen’s Club, contact President Chuck Berry at 605-680-1252.

For more information on lake ice trends, see, or the EPA website at