For 36 years Mary and Dennis Buschkowsky have been in charge of gathering one piece of important information used by state climatologists and a New York scientist who has spent decades studying global warming.
For the most part, as spring weather starts winning its bout with winter by pushing the cold air north, their job is easy. The Buschkowskys can sit at their kitchen table and look out over Madison Lake. If there’s ice in the bay, their job is done for the day.
As that ice melts away, though, their annual job becomes more challenging. It requires getting into the car and driving around the 1,344-acre lake, sometimes rumbling down gravel roads to check every corner. They use binoculars to scan the water for any hint of ice.
They make the trip at least three times a day when the last of the ice is blown into a bay. They’ve even added late-night trips when there’s a chance the ice will disappear before the next day officially starts.
“We’ve been out close to midnight for Mary’s sake,” Dennis said during a recent trip around the lake.
When all the ice is finally gone, the official ice-out date is recorded. The information is sent to two scientists: Pete Boulay at the State Climatology Office at the University of Minnesota and Ken Stewart at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
After that, the Buschkowskys’ job is done.
It’s simple information, but it’s valuable, Stewart said. That’s because, prior to the Buschkowskys taking the job, the late Frank McCabe recorded Madison Lake’s ice-free date for 37 years. For 13 years before that, unofficial ice-out dates were recorded on the side of a barn next to the lake. So the date ice leaves the lake each spring has been recorded since 1927.