May 14, 2018: All Clear

I went flying today, and saw no ice on Lake of the Woods. You can click on this picture to view a larger version and zoom in to see for yourself.

In this photo, the nose of the King Air is aimed at Middle Island, with Hay Island to the left, Scotty Island just right of center, and Whiskey Island at the extreme right. The full span of the Barrier Islands is visible in the middle distance, and there’s no sign of the ice that was holding out in that area.

Yesterday’s satellite images were blurred, but some ice was visible. Today’s had some cloud cover, but by comparing two images, I was able to see pretty much the whole lake, and there was no visible ice, so I think even the ice down by Baudette is gone.

So I’m calling it. As of today, Lake of the Woods is ice free. The brick graph gets a magenta block for 2018 to celebrate.

This spring was one of the four latest springs of the sixteen on the graph; behind the curve, but not outrageously so.

To show the timing of the onset and conclusion of the thaw, here’s the finalized version of the floating bar graph. Each year’s bar starts on the Inflection Date (when the daily mean temperature rose above freezing) and ends on the date when the lake was ice free.

Depending on your monitor size and settings, you might want to zoom in on this to read the numbers. In summary, it shows that compared to other recent years, the 2018 thaw got off to a late start and then went fairly fast.

A quick note on other lakes in the region: all lakes in the Kenora, Red Lake, Sioux Lookout and Dryden area are clear of ice, with three exceptions:

  1. Shoal Lake, west of Kenora, still has a large patch of ice.
  2. Trout Lake, east of Red Lake, still has extensive ice.
  3. Lac Seoul, near Sioux Lookout, still has some ice near Kejick Bay.

I’ll be wrapping up the Ice Patrol for the season in the next few days. Thanks to everyone who visited this year- I had record traffic!

Special thanks to all who contributed with photos, comments or emails.

I couldn’t have done it without the help of my co-workers at MAG Canada.

 

May 11, 2018: Remnants Persist

Yesterday I said the weak ice between Scotty Island and Whiskey Island would be gone overnight. Wrong! Garry Hawryluk passed overhead on a WestJet flight at 6:00 this morning, and managed a few pictures at dawn. The light was poor, so I’ve enhanced the contrast on this one to make the ice more visible.

What I like about this photo is it shows the full span of that ice sheet south of the Barrier Islands. But if you look just above the big expanse of ice, you can see that the small patch in the Manitou survived the night. It did dip below freezing last night, but I think a bigger factor was that the wind died out: without wave action, the candled ice did not break up or blow away.

My own nefarious plan was to hold off on taking pictures until this afternoon, so I could say, “it was gone when I looked.” Unfortunately, it was still hanging on at 3:00pm.

This picture is centered on Town Island. Click on it to see a larger image, and click on that to zoom in, and you can see that small pans of ice still persist on the Manitou.

At full magnification, you can also see a boat passing by Lunny’s Island. The water is so smooth you can trace the wake all the way back to the Hades!

This picture shifts over to the left to show more of Bigstone Bay and Hay Island. Zoom in on this one and you can see a tiny forlorn patch of ice clinging to Needle Point, just left of the center of the picture. But the real reason I took this photo is I wanted to show the larger sheet of ice in the distance. The top right corner of the picture shows the area south of East Allie Island, and that big expanse of ice there is still, well, big. It looks set to hold on a bit longer.

Now that the thaw is almost complete, Sean and I are looking forward to finishing up our graphs for 2018.

Here’s Sean’s latest version of the prediction graph.

We reached a Thaw Index of 200 today, which Sean guessed (several weeks ago!) would be enough accumulated heat to melt all our ice. It turned out to be a very good guess, especially for a first attempt. Sean used temperature data from past years to work out a relationship between how cold a winter was and how much warmth it takes to melt the ice. That didn’t give him a magic number, it gave him a range. He still had to choose whether this year’s thaw would be rapid or sluggish. He went with a swiftish prediction, and chose a thaw index of 200 as his best guess. (A thaw index of 200 means that starting on the day the temperature averages above freezing, we add each day’s mean temperature to a total. When it adds up to 200, we hoped to be ice free.) Because it was late in the season, I also felt that the thaw would be fairly rapid, but it looks as if the ice won’t be 100% gone until we climb a bit higher than 200.

Remember, my method in previous years was to take aerial photographs and compare them to my archived pictures, and look for the ice to melt at roughly the same pace as those previous years. In other words, I didn’t even try to factor in the forecast, unless it called for a significant run of good or bad weather.

The trick with using long-term weather forecasts to graph mean temperatures in advance is: they’re forecasts, and they go wrong. This April, forecasts were calling for miserable weather. And they were right, at first. Then as May arrived, we started to get much warmer weather than predicted. Changes to the weather forecast meant changes to the ice-out date, but not to the desired index.

I won’t be flying again until Monday. Will I find any ice at all by then? We’re looking at a warm weekend. I’m guessing not.

May 10, 2018: Remnants

Terra Satellite captured a clean image of Lake of the Woods today. Here’s how it looks in True Colour.

You can see there are three main patches of ice remaining. The bright one at the left is Shoal Lake, and the fainter one to the right of it is the area south of the Barrier Islands. The patchy one near the bottom is by Baudette.

Side note: Kenora shows very clearly on this picture as a beige blotch at the upper right. Look closely, and you can just make out three tiny dark blobs in the brightest part. Those are Rabbit Lake, Round Lake and Laurenson’s Lake!

Here’s the same image in false colour. Now that you know where to look, you should be able to spot our suburban lakes again.

The same three patches of ice are visible, but the differences in ice strength more clear.

Sometimes, very thin ice is indistinguishable from space. So I went flying and took a look from the air.

Click on any of the pictures below to see a larger version that you can zoom in on.

Middle Island and the Hades are in front of the aircraft’s nose. Scotty Island is in the center of the frame, and the patch of ice extending from Scotty to Whiskey Island is not visible from space. It is very weak, and will be gone tonight.

The larger sheet of ice is the one south of the Barrier Islands. It’s in poor shape, but it’s pretty big. We circled around it for a closer look.

This picture looks north, with Cliff Island in the foreground, and Bath Island dead center. The Barrier Islands are at the far edge of the ice, and the little patch by Scotty can be seen beyond them. Kenora is just visible as some pale specks in the far-off haze. You can’t see all of this icy area in this picture; smaller sheets of ice extend in both directions, but they’re weak and won’t last.

Our training flight took us over by Sioux Narrows. Click on the image to zoom in and see the iconic bridge in the foreground. Beyond it is Whitefish Bay, which has a reputation for thick ice, but it’s no straggler this year: it’s all open. The black and grey blur is just a propeller blade photo-bombing the picture.

This picture looks west, so in the top right corner, you can see the ice we circled around before, and far off on the horizon, the white line is the ice on Shoal Lake.

We didn’t go far south, so I didn’t get a good picture of the ice down on Big Traverse, but here’s a hazy one just to show that it’s real.

It’s not very warm today, but it is sunny and windy, so all this ice is going to have a hard time. The small patch by Scotty Island should be gone by dawn. The bigger area south of the Barrier Islands might last a day or two. I’m not sure about big sheet down on Big Traverse. It looks weak, and it’s very exposed to wind down there. It could also go in a day or two. The ice on Shoal Lake looks stronger. It might last three days or so.

Sean C. will update his graph tomorrow because he’s been saying for some time that May 11 would be the day we’ll hit a thaw index of 200, enough heat to melt all the ice we made last winter. I’ll recap his method tomorrow; it worked very well this year, and shows great promise for predicting future spring thaws.

May 9, 2018: Minaki

John Sweeney and Andy Zabloski flew today and returned from the north in the afternoon, so they helped me out with some pictures of the Minaki area.

Big Sand Lake, north of Minaki. Wind has driven the last of the ice to the shore.

You can click on any of these pictures to see a high-resolution, zoomable version.

The south end of Big Sand Lake and all of Sand Lake, with Minaki visible near the left side.

Sand Lake, with Minaki closer to the center of the picture. That white streak near the horizon is ice on Shoal Lake.

Winnipeg River, with Kenora in the distance, above the center of the photograph. The narrow lake near the top left corner is Lower Black Sturgeon, and the white patch at the top right corner is ice on the south part of Lake of the Woods.

In other news, the footbridge to Coney Island came out this morning. That’s scheduled when the waterway from downtown Kenora is otherwise open all the way to Devil’s Gap.

A quick glance at the start of my own flight at twilight revealed that there are some boats in the water at Northern Harbour. We didn’t look at more distant parts of the lake, because there wasn’t enough light to distinguish ice from water.

Satellite images from the last two days have not been good. I’d like to see what’s going on with ice on the southern parts of Lake of the Woods, but cameras on both Aqua and Terra satellites have been thwarted by cloud cover. Some parts of the lake can be glimpsed through gaps in the cloud, and do show the ice darkening, but we haven’t had a really clear image since May 7th.

Tomorrow I’m scheduled for a training flight, so I hope to get a better look around.

 

May 8, 2018: More Good News!

I got pictures from two more co-workers. Tom Hutton and James Biesenthal were flying together, and they both took pictures.

First, the ones from Tom Hutton.

The classic Keewatin waterfront shot to get us started. No more ice in Safety Bay.

Here’s a closer look at Crowe Island, Anglican Island and Channel Island. They’re all clear, but there’s ice out past Thompson Island.

This third picture shows Gun Club Island in the left foreground, then Treaty Island and Roger’s look joined together by the low angle. That’s Town Island in the middle distance, left of center. Beyond it, by Nantons Island, there’s still ice.

Now some pictures from James Biesenthal. There’s some overlap with Tom’s pictures, but I’ve selected a few that offer a different view.

This is the Winnipeg River, looking south with Locke Bay spanning the frame in the background.

Further south, James photographed the west channel of the river, with Keewatin in the distance.

Then Darlington Bay with Keewatin in the center of the picture.

Then from over the Keewatin bridge, this shot of the cluster of islands that include Mackie’s, Cameron, Cross, Kalamalka, Gourlay and Yacht Club islands. Further right, Turnbull Island and Rheault Bay. You’d have to zoom in to see the distant ice on the Manitou.

The last shot is of Treaty Island, with Shragge’s to the right of center and Channel Island at the wingtip. More to the left are Rogers, Galt, and Town Islands. There’s still enough ice to block passage to Scotty Island, but it won’t last long.

Monday’s high was 28.3°C, but Tuesday was quite a bit cooler, reaching just 13°C. By Wednesday night, the Weather Network forecast says we’ll be dipping down to 1°C, and rising to just 9°C on Thursday. I don’t think it will matter much: for Lake Dwellers near Kenora, the lake will be navigable.

Although cool, Thursday should also be sunny, so the satellite photographs will show if there’s any ice remaining by then. Some ice may persist on the south part of the lake for a few days longer. Shoal Lake is going fast, so it might go at the same time Lake of the Woods this year.

In case you missed seeing the reports in the comments section, Clearwater Bay is open, West Hawk Lake is open, and down by Sioux Narrows,  Long Bay is open.

May 8, 2018: Good News!

I didn’t go flying today, but my co-workers at MAG Aerospace did. They had a long day, arriving home just in time to catch some pictures in the evening light.

First home were John Sweeney and Andy Zabloski. Andy flew, John took pictures.

Blindfold Lake shines in the foreground of this picture looking west at Bigstone Bay with Hay Island in the distance. To the left, Andrew Bay looks open, but south of the Barrier Islands looks like there’s a huge area of ice remaining. Click on these pictures to see the high resolution version that you can zoom in on.

In this second shot, the plane has moved closer to Route Bay. Bigstone Bay is almost entirely open. The most ice is between Hay Island’s Needle Point and the mainland’s Heenan Point, and it’s just soft pan ice.

Hay Island, Moore Bay, Bigstone Bay. More water than ice now.

Scotty Island is just above the aircraft’s nose, and beyond that is the Manitou. Whiskey Island is still ice-locked, but all the ice looks soft and ready to disintegrate. Ptarmigan Bay and Clearwater look open, and I had a comment from scowtan2015 this morning to say that Clearwater’s ice blew out last night.

Town Island in front of the King Air’s nose this time, and everything is open around Treaty Island, Rogers Island and Galt Island now.

The next batch of pictures came from airline pilot Matthew Render, a regular guest contributor. He supplies me with pictures of Shoal Lake.

Matthew took these at six o’clock this evening; the pictures look north. The first one shows the west shore of Shoal Lake: everything is clear north of Twin Points including Rice Bay, Snowshoe Bay and Indian Bay. I’m not so sure about the north shore: cloud cover makes it hard to see if there’s ice or not.

Matthew’s second photo has Dominique Island in the foreground, and there’s still plenty of ice in view, but Matthew says it retreated a lot in the twelve hours between his morning flight and his evening flight today.

Caroline talked to a guy from the Sioux Narrows area this morning, and he said Long Bay cleared out last night.

Summary: vast areas of Lake of the Woods are open now, and the remaining ice is weak and floating loose, but cloud cover blocked the satellite cameras today, so we can’t get an overview of the whole lake.

More pictures are coming from my co-workers. Two other MAG Aero crews landed after Andy and John did. They’ll send me pictures this evening, and if their photographs cover different areas I’ll get them up late tonight or early tomorrow morning.

Thanks to everyone who pitched in to help with Ice Patrol today!

May 7, 2018: Tom Stoyka & Dan Zvanovec

First a couple of pictures from a pair of guest contributors, Tom Stoyka and Dan Zvanovec. Tom did the flying, Dan took the pictures. They were flying over the west end of the Manitou, around Brûlé Point yesterday.

This picture looks west, with the tip of Brûlé Point dead center. Above that is Ptarmigan Bay, which looks to be mostly open, but you can see ice further west by Copper Island. In the foreground, by the leading edge of the wing, is a big pan of ice in the west end of the Manitou. These pictures were sized for speedy emailing, so you cannot click on them to see a high-resolution version.

This is a closer look at the same area. Brûlé Point is at the very top right corner above the wingtip, and the land in the upper part of the picture is part of the Western Peninsula, including Bluebell Lake at the left edge.

Thanks to Tom Stoyka and Dan Zvanovec for these photographs, and to Karen Loewen, who got Dan’s permission and sent them to me.

Next up, the latest graph from Sean C.

We’re still making rapid progress, warming up almost as fast as 2007, and staying on track to be 100% ice-free by May 11. That’s a full week better than I expected back in mid-April.

I’d like to take a moment to talk about one of Kenora’s best kept secrets. As an author, it bothers me that so many people don’t know we have a local independent bookstore.

Elizabeth Campbell Books is on Main Street, right next door to the Plaza Restaurant.

Elizabeth is a stellar supporter of local authors like me.

If my brand of girl-power science fiction isn’t your cup of tea, she’s got non-fiction as well as fiction, plus art and photography books, kid’s books and indigenous art.

Want to read about Kenora’s infamous bank bombing? The Devil’s Gap by Joe Ralko tells the story of Canada’s first suicide bomber. Bush Flying Captured features the splendid aircraft photography of Rich Hulina. Local history? Community Ties by Kathy Toivonen and Kim Manduca explores the railways of Northwestern Ontario.

There are many more great titles that I couldn’t list here.

She also has whole rooms full of used books perfect for the cottage or the trip to and from it, so don’t hesitate to look beyond the front showroom.

I hope to have more new pictures tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ve updated the satellite links, and added a new one. I haven’t had much time to play with it yet, but Kevin Weber sent me a link to the NASA site that shows the MODIS pictures. In these images, the view of Lake of the Woods is at an angle from the south.

Summary: some Lake Dwellers will be able to reach their camps near Kenora already, and more of the lake will be opening up every day. Keep an eye on the comments section for reports from active boaters.