March 8, 2016: Softening Ice

Low ceilings and drizzle put the kibosh on my plans to take aerial photographs today. That’s not a huge loss; there isn’t much open water to photograph yet. For those of you checking in from elsewhere, I took a drive along the waterfront in Kenora today to see how things look on Safety Bay. It mostly looks like wet ice.

Photographer: Tim Armstrong

Safety Bay from the Discovery Centre

There is a little water visible, but over by Keewatin there are still a couple of ice fishing shacks near the shore.

Here’s a shKenora WebCamot from the Kenora Webcam atop the Clarion Lakeside Inn and Conference Center (Formerly the Best Western).

This is the view looking west over the Bush Island sandbar, with Safety Bay in the background. As you can see, it’s mostly ice.

 

Meanwhile, I hear the ice roads are deteriorating fast. The landings are getting sloppy, and the recent warm weather has produced a lot of slush and water on top of the ice. Here’s a video clip from Donnie Kinger that shows what it was like on the ice road this last weekend:

 

I got a message yesterday from Hilary Dugan, a limnologist from Wisconsin. She sent me data compiled by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources giving the ice-out dates for Long Point on the US side of Lake of the Woods. It looks as if that part of the lake opens up at about the same time as the lake as a whole, or sometimes a week earlier.

Here’s how that data looks on my bar graph. Dark blue bricks piled up on top represent years when I have information, starting in 2003. Bright blue bricks extending downwards represent the Minnesota DNR data. Their coverage goes back as far as 1985, with some years missing.Dual Ice-Out Graph L

The larger data set from Long Point matches pretty well with my data, and shows early May as the most common time period for ice-out.

That won’t be the case this year. While normal highs this time of year are -2°C, and overnight lows typically dip to around -10°C, the forecast is for a run of above normal temperatures for the next two weeks: daytime highs might range from 1 to 11°C, and many night-time lows may stay above freezing. That’s like getting April’s weather in March! The lake ice is unusually thin this year, so unless the forecast is wrong (like that could happen) those warm temperatures will take a huge toll on the ice.

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