Hi! I’m not posting every day yet, as things are still pretty frozen.
For the same reason, I haven’t been pestering my pilot and drone operator friends for aerial views (yet).
However, I thought you might like to see for yourself what the satellites can show us.
Remember, you can click on these images to see them in full resolution.
Here’s an image from the Sentinel 2 satellite from Thursday. I’ll start with the Highlight Optimized Natural Colour version, because it shows the outline of the lake best.
It’s pretty obvious from this picture that the lake is essentially frozen from shore to shore.
In the Shortwave Infrared version, a few patches of open water stand out.
Showing up as black patches in the infrared view, open water can be seen near Kenora, at the headwaters of the Winnipeg River, and also out in Keewatin Channel and the adjacent Second Channel.
I was surprised that there wasn’t a similar patch of open water down by Big Narrows, so I zoomed in for a closer look at that area.
There are a few tiny spots of open water visible here near the centre of the image.
Now, I’m not going to go over the entire lake with a magnifying glass, because it’s pretty obvious where we stand. However, if you’d like to check out a particular area of interest, here’s a link to the Sentinel Hub. This satellite provides very zoomable images, and there are lots of cool filters to play with. Knock yourself out.
The downside with Sentinel is that it only passes by every few days, and it’s field of view is narrow, so sometimes it gets the Whitefish Bay side, and sometimes it gets Shoal Lake, and sometimes it’s not even close. Throw in some cloudy days, and we can’t count on Sentinel 2 every week.
Which brings us to the MODIS satellites, Terra and Aqua. They’ve been passing over Lake of the Woods every day like clockwork–one in the morning and one in the afternoon–for decades*.
Of course there’s a catch. The MOD in MODIS stands for MODerate resolution. Lake of the Woods is just a tiny part of what the MODIS system sees, and you can’t zoom in to see much detail. Rabbit Lake is about the smallest thing you can make out.
You can’t zoom in on this image. If you click on it, you’ll see a version with some helpful place names overlaid on the picture.
Terra had good conditions for imaging Lake of the Woods yesterday.
You can’t put too much trust in comparing a Terra image to a Sentinel one, because they use different filters and so on, but if anything, I’d say there might be less open water after another cold night.
*Terra was launched by NASA in 1999, and crosses the equator northbound when it’s morning in the Americas. Aqua launched in 2002, and crosses the equator southbound in the American afternoon.
Both satellites image the continental USA every day, and luckily for us, the pictures include all of Lake of the Woods and as far north into Canada as Big Sand Lake.
That’s the good news. Sadly, the MODIS satellites are reaching the end of their mission. After nearly quarter of a century, their orbits are beginning to drift off track and off schedule. NASA plans to de-orbit both Terra and Aqua this summer. This is the last spring we’ll have their help on Ice Patrol. I’ll be sad to see them go.
Last I heard, no comparable replacements are planned.
Milder weather is finally here, but you should make the most of it this weekend. Monday night is forecast to be cold again. -17ºC as I write this.
Naturally, I’ve been following the long-term forecasts, too. After a string of La Niña years, we’re switching to an El Niño pattern, and we may be in for a cool, dry spring.
Here’s a screengrab of a Weather Network graphic for the long-term spring outlook. You can click on it to see the fine print. I had hoped to post a link to the entire presentation, but I cannot find it today.
So we may not see an early inflection date* this year. Their 14-day outlook is not rosy, either.
*For review, Inflection Date is the term we give the day when the Mean Daily Temperature goes above freezing on a lasting basis. Even after that appears to happen, sometimes we have to wait a week to see if the mild temperatures are sticking around.
Let’s finish with something a little more positive.
A number of people took the time to tell me their ice thickness measurements or estimates. Overall, the numbers ranged from 20 to 30 inches, with the majority falling in the 25 to 30 inch range. That’s not bad for late March, when we often see ice augers bottoming out at over three feet. Forty inches, or just over a meter, is not uncommon.
Ferg Devins reported that a large hole he was monitoring showed an increase in ice thickness overnight during our recent cold spell.
Signs of Spring:
The Goldeneye ducks are back. They’re hardy little critters, or lazy migrators, depending on how you look at it. They are a very early sign of spring.
I saw my first pair of Canada Geese just the other day. They’re not as eager as the Goldeneyes, so that’s a bit more hopeful.
I’ve been hearing more songbirds, and some of them have been pooping on my car. Umm… yay?