DISCUSSION: According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, in 2018 there where 19,636 total airports in the United States with 5,087 being available for public use. Of this, limited information exists regarding paved runways whether concrete or asphalt. As recent at 2013, 5,054 airports existed within the United States with paved runways with 189 over 3,046 meters, as stated by the The World Factbook, a publication of the Central Intelligence Agency. However, of note is there is only 1 ice runway in the continental United States that is approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Lake Winnipesaukee, Alton Bay, New Hampshire.
Winter 2019-2020 has proved to be a challenging one for pilots wishing to use the Alton Bay Seaplane Base and Ice Runway. The runways are for public use, with runways 01W/19W at an elevation of 504 ft. This winter had proven a difficult one with mostly mild conditions seen throughout the United States, Alton Bay was a reflection of this. The New Hampshire Pilots Association indicated, “the depth of ice in the bay has generally been fluctuating between 5 and 9 inches of ice this season but we need a minimum of 12 inches of ice to get the plow truck safely on the ice.” In addition, long-range forecasts indicated a potential warming trend, approaching spring, further shutting down the infamous ice runway.
Long term forecast according to the National Weather Service,”
The ensemble and deterministic model solutions are in decent agreement on the long wave pattern through the start of next week. A weak impulse and associated cold front are sliding offshore as we begin the period...with rising heights and high pressure to follow for late Friday and Saturday. By Sunday...a more significant impulse over the southwest CONUS will then ride northeast and serve to flatten the ridge over the Gulf of Mexico and eastern CONUS. This system will close off then meander across the Great Lakes and northeast through the start of the new work week. At the surface...low pressure will track northeast across the Great Lakes and into eastern Canada with a secondary triple point low developing vicinity of the mid Atlantic coast. Precipitation with the system should breakout across the area on Sunday with thermal profile suggesting mainly snow across northern and mountain sections with a snow/rain north for the remainder. Precipitation should taper to a few lingering rain and snow showers by early Monday as the trailing surface front and secondary low slide well offshore. An upper trough will then linger through at least Tuesday along with clouds and widely scattered rain or snow showers.”
Moreover, compared to 2019, 12 inches of ice were seen for a useable runway at Alton Bay, in 2020, this has not been a possibility. While still early spring, temperatures are hovering above freezing and despite forecasted snow, it would not be enough to continually grow ice in the bay.
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© 2020 Meteorologist Jessica Olsen