‘Tis the season… to record ‘ice on’!

The following blog post was written by our Sustainable Development Coordinator, Emelia. Have any questions about the ‘Ice Watch’ feature? Contact her

Some of my fondest childhood memories involve skating on the pond in my grandparents’ backyard. My cousins and I would get so excited when it would finally start to get cold out because we knew what that meant- grandpa would soon be hard at work turning the pond into the ultimate skating rink. We spent hours on that rink playing hockey, trying to pull off impossible figure skating moves, and seeing who could skate backward the fastest. I can’t imagine how we would have endured the frigid Northern Ontario winters without that rink, nor can I imagine what my childhood would have been like without that precious family time. Water truly does have a way of bringing people together, even when it’s frozen!

Now that I’m older, I have an even greater appreciation for ice formation, and no, that’s not a Canadian quirk of mine! In reality, ice formation can be extremely telling of larger climate patterns. 

For example, say the pond in my grandparents’ backyard was covered with ice by November 1st of this year, but was still ice-free on December 1st of next year. I’d definitely want to know if this was an anomaly, or if it was the beginning of a worrisome pattern. 

This is precisely why we’ve built the ‘ice watch’ feature into our data platform, which allows you to easily track ‘ice on’ and ‘ice off’ at different locations. 

How do you know if ice is ‘on’ or ‘off’? 

Ice is considered ‘on’ if it completely covers a body of water from your point of view.

To determine this, all you need to do is: 

  • Choose a vantage point
  • Ask yourself, “can I see any exposed water?”
  • If you cannot see any exposed water, ice is ‘on’!

Similarly, ice is considered ‘off’ when you no longer see any ice from the same vantage point.

Easy enough, right?! 

If you haven’t noticed this feature before, it’s because it doesn’t turn on automatically. You have to turn on the ‘ice watch’ feature in your custom forms! 

Once you turn the “Ice Watch” feature on, you’ll be ready to go!

… But what if ice melts after it’s considered ‘on’?

Researchers are looking for the longest continuous freeze. But they also like to know:

  • The first date the ice completely covers the body of water
  • The first date the ice completely disappears from the body of water
  • You can make note of these in comments for those days, but your official ‘ice on’ and ‘ice off’ should represent the longest continuous period.

Should I be worried if ‘ice on’ or ‘ice off’ dates are way different than last year’s?

Not necessarily! Every winter is different, so it can take a few years to find out if there’s been any real changes. Make sure to keep track of changes from the same vantage point every year! 

Are other groups tracking ‘ice on’ and ‘ice off’?

You bet! For example, Don Ross from County Sustainability Group regularly records ‘ice on’ and ‘ice off’ for several waterbodies. It’s pretty cool to be able to look back on data from the past few years, don’t you think?

The following ‘ice on’ and ‘ice off’ observations were recorded at Larder Lake

If you live in an area where waterbodies freeze in the winter months, I highly encourage you add the Ice Watch feature to your custom observation form. It’s important that we keep track of ice formation now and into the future, so we can develop a better understanding of how things are changing over time!