LEWISTON, Maine – Ice on dozens of lakes in Maine and four other states is melting earlier in the year than in decades past, according to a new analysis.
The study, "On Thin Ice: The Melting of an American Pastime," examined the records of ice cover on more than 50 lakes in Maine, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New York and Alaska.
In Maine, the study found that Moosehead Lake, the state's largest body of water, is now thawing eight days earlier than its historic average based on 149 years of records. Damariscotta Lake is clearing 12 days earlier than in the past, and Rangeley Lake is thawing five days earlier.
The analysis mirrors other studies that show that the climate is changing, said Susan Sargent, Maine representative of the National Environmental Trust.
"Old Man Winter is becoming old man warmer," Sargent said.
The analysis was put out by Clear the Air, a joint project of the National Environmental Trust, the Clean Air Task Force and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund.
The early thawing isn't limited to just the lakes included in the analysis. Ice on Lake Auburn also clears out earlier than it did in the past, said Mary Jane Dillingham, a spokeswoman for the Auburn Water District.
"We're trending toward warmer springs," she said. "It's always [ice-out] in April now. No more in May."
This winter's warm temperatures further reinforce the warming trend, Sargent said.
The warm weather, Sargent said, is hurting ice fishing, skiing, snowmobiling and other winter industries that rely on the cold.
"A lot of people count on winter recreation to put money in their pockets," Sargent said. "Global warming isn't just costing us something that makes our state special. It's costing us money too."