Lake Mendota's surface area at approximately 9,730 acres is about three times the size of Lake Mendota's at about 3,272 acres, but Mendota's deepest point of 83 feet is not much deeper than Monona's at 74 feet. Another commonality these two lakes share is a pattern involving the seasonal formation and melting of surface ice. Records dating back to 1855 have helped scientists to identify the slow decline in the number of days that the ice cover is present on these two Madison lakes. In those 150 years, the lakes haven't lost just a few days of ice cover, but about a month's worth. This has several ecological repercussions.
Surface ice is responsible for regulating the lake's temperature, dissolving oxygen levels, reducing evaporation, helping to maintain the lake's surface area, and providing a holding place for snow which in turn blocks the sun's rays from the unseen waters, among many other things. Aquatic ecosystems are very complex and even minute changes can leave lasting effects. Ice cover decline is just one of the places climate change can be seen around us.
Read the full story by climateWisconsin.org for more details. For further reading on climate change, view the library's recommended reading lists here. To read more about Madison lakes, see this reading list.
Photo: Three students on frozen Lake Mendota by Amy De Simone