When will the lake freeze?

Although a drysuit has allowed me extending playtime at the lake, it gets to be cold enough that is not fun anymore. My hands become numb and pain can be bad.  I have windsurfed up to the day before the lake froze but to be honest, that was not fun at all. I was going through the phase I usually go through when learning a new skill/sport, so I did not care about doing it in suboptimal conditions.

When I learned to kitesurf, sometimes I did it in the least favorable conditions and had to be rescued a few times by nice people with boats, when I was floating, hypothermic in the middle of Branch Oak Lake or Pawnee Lake near Lincoln, NE. Here is a picture of a friend helping me not fly away:

kitesurf Pawnee Lake Nebraska

The question is now: How does a citylaker have fun when the lake is not frozen yet but is too painfully cold to windsurf/ski/wakeboard?

If I could find a way to warm up my hands, then the rest of the body will be ok with the equipment I showed on this post.

While I figure something up to warm up my hands,  I have been wondering how soon the lake will freeze. Last year it happened towards the end of December, but this year has been much colder so I bet it will happen sooner.

What determines when a lake freezes?

  1. Depth/size: the more water, the more heat the lake has stored over summer and the longer it will take for the heat to dissipate.
  2. Air temperature
  3. Wind: cold fast wind will cool the surface of the lake faster.
  4. Sun: sunny days will melt ice that forms overnight.

Water is the densest at 4 degrees Celsius or 39 F. When the water on top of the lake reaches that temp then it sinks down and is subsequently replaced by warmer less dense water until the entire lake reaches 39 F. That is when the water on top continues to cool until it freezes.

Deep and shallow water must both reach 39 F before the lake starts to freeze. This will happen first at shallow places and that is why the shoreline freezes first.

Once the lake starts freezing, the speed at which the thickness will increase depends on the 4 factors described above.

This article has some tables at the end that show inches of ice growth per day based on average temperatures.  For example, an average of 20 F will make about 5 inches of ice in 5 days. And 5 inches would be the minimum safe thickness to go out a play.

Once the lake freezes, this is how a citylaker has fun:

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