March 5, 2016: Preview

The temperature rose above freezing in Kenora today, and there’s more where that came from. In general, the forecast is for the rest of March to have daytime highs above freezing and overnight lows below. In my book, that means spring has begun.

I’m not rushing out to take pictures because there is almost no open water on Lake of the Woods yet. But the ice is thin. Let’s take a broad look at the ramifications.

Since I began tracking it in 2003, the most common result has been the first week of May, but there’s quite a range. I could cover my bases by saying May 1st, give or take three weeks. Here’s a funny thing- you don’t have to go very far back to see the full range of variation.

Last year was typical. The lake was ice-free on May 3rd. It was the first year I was actually able to go flying on the exact day the last ice disappeared.

Remember 2014? Ugh. That was a late thaw. In early April of that year, the ice was still more than three feet thick, and the ice didn’t go till almost the end of May. It jeopardized the May long weekend, and it played havoc with the fishing lodges.

On the other end of the spectrum 2012 had a very early melt. That year I took my first pictures on March 13th, and the ice was all gone by the middle of April. It’s extraordinary for the ice to go in less than five weeks. Although the dates vary, six weeks from start to finish is pretty standard.

Okay, enough background. What about this year?

At the beginning of March, I am hearing reports that the ice is only about eighteen inches thick, with perhaps as much as twenty inches on the best ice roads. Remember, 2014 had twice that much ice in April!

So, the most obvious guess would be that half as much ice would take half as long to melt, right? Hold on, it may not be that simple. If we threw May temperatures at it, the ice would go very fast. But it’s still early, and the weather won’t be that warm.

Where does that leave us? It would be reckless to forecast a record-breaking year. There are too many factors at play: the wind, the temperature, the water levels and the strength of the current all play a role.

The thin ice will be a big influence. While the first week of May is typical, I think we’ll be on the early side of that this year. In other words, sometime in April. To equal 2012, we’d have to start the six-week count-down right now. To beat 2012, we’d need warm nights, high winds and heavy rain to accelerate the thaw. That’s not impossible, but a wiser guess would be closer to the third week of April. There’s ample precedent for that.

See you soon!

4 thoughts on “March 5, 2016: Preview

  1. Looking forward to the coming weeks and your wonderful story telling of this special time of year when we transition from winter to spring on beautiful Lake of the Woods. A huge THANKS for what you do here. Cheers !

  2. As a snowbird, your service is invaluable. As breakup approaches, I check your site daily as we have to travel by water to get to our residence. I am so grateful for your photos and reports. Keep up this wonderful work. Thank you!!!

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