May 8, 2020: Sentinel

I often post satellite images from the MODIS cameras on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. The University of Wisconsin at Madison posts fresh images every day, and the highest available resolution is 250 metres to a pixel. That means you can see features as small as Kenora’s Round Lake, or Gun Club Island, but they’re just dots.

Today, Hilary Dugan, a limnologist from Madison, sent me a satellite picture of Lake of the Woods taken yesterday by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 satellite. It’s at much higher resolution: 10 metres to a pixel. You can see roads.

Naturally, I was eager to upload this image to Ice Patrol, but I cannot: it’s too big! It’s about forty times the size of my average photo. It would take all night to upload, and it would pretty much wipe out my remaining storage space at WordPress. So I can’t show you the whole lake at maximum detail. But I can show you the bit with ice remaining on it.

You should absolutely click on this picture to see it full-screen, and then click again to zoom it to the full resolution.

The last two patches of ice on Lake of the Woods.

At the top right corner of the frame is Northern Harbour. The ice on Bigstone Bay is clearly visible between Heenan Point on the mainland and Needle Point on Hay Island. You can even see  remnants of the ice roads. The pale blotches over and around Sultana Island are clouds. I’m less sure of the pale patch south of Copper Island. I’m leaning towards cloud for that one.

At the bottom of the picture, the large island is Ferrier. The remaining patch of ice is within a triangle tipped by Robertson Island to the north west, Whiteout Island to the south west, and Craig Island to the east. This is the same patch of ice identified by Josh Broten a few days ago. At that time, he described it as being near Brittania Island, Cintiss Island and Gill Island, so it’s a lot smaller now.

Aside from the impracticality due to the size of the images this satellite produces, there’s another disadvantage: the Sentinel system doesn’t attempt to image Lake of the Woods very often. Subtract the cloudy days, and several weeks can go by without a picture. The timing on this one was great, but Sentinel images aren’t going to be a regular feature on Satellite Saturdays.

Hilary sent me a reduced image that shows the whole lake, but at a more manageable file size. It’s not as detailed as the section above, but you can see everything including Shoal Lake. Thanks, Hilary.

Lake of the Woods, May 7, 2020.

Speaking of Shoal Lake, the ice patch there is much larger than anything on Lake of the Woods, and will last a few days longer. This has happened every spring I can remember, except last year, when Shoal Lake cleared a few days before LotW.

On another topic, Peg from Texas wrote to ask how we’re making out with the pandemic, and what it’s like here. First off, the best place I’ve found to get updates is KenoraOnline’s COVID-19 Info page. It covers topics as local as what’s going on at the hospital (elective surgery might resume in a while), ranging up to announcements from Ontario’s Premier, Doug Ford. Recently, he rejected requests that the province phase in re-opening on a region-by-region basis.

I’ll add some first-hand perspective that might be hard to pick out of the official news.

Restaurants and Bars: Unlike Manitoba, restaurants are not open, not even patios.  SOME restaurants are offering delivery or take-out, and of those, some are only doing it for limited hours, or a few days a week. Bars and lounges are closed. Non-essential businesses are closed.

Groceries: Keewatin Place was closed last time I checked. Correction: Keewatin Place is taking orders through their website and offering curbside pick-up. Safeway, No-Frills, the Wholesale Club, Wal-Mart, and the LCBO are still restricting the number of customers in the store: you have to line up outside to get in. You’re supposed to send one shopper for family, so there are very few children in the stores. One-way arrows assist physical distancing by limiting the number of people you meet coming the other way. Masks are fairly common, but I wouldn’t say they’re in the majority. The temporary arrows at Safeway and Wal-Mart have been replaced my more permanent ones, so I think they’re going to be staying. On the other hand, some of the barricades that turned the stores into a maze have been removed, allowing a little more freedom of movement.

Until now, hardware stores have not been open, but you could phone in an order, pay in advance and wait outside to pick it up. That may change soon. To quote from a news item about easing Ontario’s restrictions on KenoraOnline,  “Hardware stores and safety supply stores will be permitted to open for in-store payment and purchases as soon as Saturday, May 9. On Monday, May 11 retail stores with a street entrance can begin offering curbside pickup and delivery…”

Of course, it may take some time to get everything ready and up to the required standards.

Greenhouses can open, but Debbie’s Greenhouse is not open yet. According to their website, they’ll open when they’re ready to do it safely, and an announcement about the timing of that could come on Monday, May 11th.

I can’t make this a more comprehensive list, because I haven’t been out much. Hopefully, it will give an idea.

May 7, 2020: Bigstone Bay

I’m going to start with two pictures that are a couple of days old, and then show how things are changing. Bigstone Bay is one of the last places on Lake of the Woods to have ice. I’m not sure why, but this is true year after year. Perhaps there’s not much current.

You can click on the pictures to see them full-screen. That version can be zoomed.

Except the satellite image. Kenora’s Round Lake is about the smallest thing the MODIS cameras can show you, and trying to zoom in will just make it worse.

The first two pictures are from Al Smith, operator of Smith Camps on Thunder Bay.

Looking west from Heenan Point.  Sultana Island on the right, Scotty Island on left.

Still a good extent of ice in this picture from sunset on Tuesday evening.

Looking east from Smith Camps on Thunder Bay towards Eagle Pass.

Eagle pass is the water route around the east end of Hay Island. Al says it looks to be ice free from Route Bay through to Moore Bay.

Now some drone photographs from today, with thanks to Michael Tomashowski.

This picture facing West shows Bigstone Bay with Heenan Point poking out into the ice.

Looking north east at Longbow Lake.

The west end of Longbow looks open, but zoom in to get a better look at the ice in the more distant east half of the lake.

Michael has operated a DJI Mavic Pro since 2017. Thanks, Michael.

NASA’s Terra Satellite got a clear view of Lake of the Woods today. Here’s the false-colour image.

The ice on Shoal Lake is still visible from space.

The bright blue patch at the left is ice on Shoal Lake; it’s shrinking day by day. Less easy to spot is the ice on Bigstone. Near the north end of Lake of the Woods, look for a sizeable island shaped like a battered battle-axe, chopping downward: that’s Hay Island. Just north of it, a dim patch of blue is the thin ice remaining on Bigstone. Longbow Lake is just north of that, but the ice there is not visible to the satellite’s camera. Too thin and waterlogged, I expect. If there’s any ice remaining south of the Barrier Islands, I can’t see it.

NOTES:

Lake of the Woods Ice Patrol has seen a sharp reduction in web visitors this spring, to about half of recent years. Fair enough. Many visitors won’t be able to come in the early part of spring. Also, my being laid off from my flying job for three months (because of the pandemic) has meant that there have been far fewer aerial photographs this year, and that some areas have had much less coverage. Sorry about that.

But there have been pluses: I’ve had a lot more guest contributors this year. Many have taken the time to email me photographs to share with you. Some have made multiple flights in their small planes, and for the first time, I’ve been able to feature drone photography.

Despite the problems, it’s been gratifying to be able to do this blog while grounded. I never dreamed I’d get this much help. Thank you all.

 

May 5, 2020: Remnants

We’re down to the last remnants of ice on Lake of the Woods now.

John Lunny sent this “before and after” pair of pictures taken from Lunny’s Island today as the ice cover changed dramatically. What a difference a day makes!

You can click on these pictures to see them full-screen.

The view is east down Bigstone Bay, with Kipling Island near the middle of the picture.

This morning

Late this afternoon

Fascinating to see the ice go dark in a matter of hours. John says the thermometer at his camp went as high as 22ºC this afternoon, although the official temperature at the Kenora airport never got higher than 14ºC.

An hour later, I got these pictures from Ted Main, also of Bigstone Bay, but from a different angle.

Kipling Island again, but looking west

The ice is totally candled.

Looking towards Northern Harbour from Heenan Point

 

Since we had mostly sunny weather today, I was hoping the satellite images would be clear. I was wondering about ice south of the Barrier Islands. Terra’s view was half obscured by cloud, but Aqua managed a mostly clear view.

The image is only 640 pixels square, but if you click on it, you’ll see a version overlaid  with tags for Kenora, Bigstone Bay, the Barrier Islands, and Shoal Lake.

Lake of the Woods, May 5, 2020. MODIS camera on NASA’s Aqua satellite. False-colour image.

The wispy blue is high cloud. Ice on the lake, specifically on Shoal Lake, and on Lake of the Woods south of the Barrier Islands, is a little more defined. Note that the ice is a very dark blue, indicating it is very thin and weak.

It will be gone soon.

Just before I uploaded this post, I got a couple of pictures from Matthew Belair. The Belairs have a place on Queer Island, not far from that ice by the Barrier Islands.

These are drone photos, taken this evening.

Looking east into Andrew Bay with the east end of Queer Island in the foreground.

No ice this way. But wait, there’s more.

Looking south at French Narrows. That’s the Eastern Peninsula at the left and East Allie Island at the right. 

These pictures aren’t very zoomable, but in the upper right corner, there’s ice down around Robertson Island.

So thanks to all of today’s contributors: John Lunny, Ted Main, and Matthew Belair.

Starting Wednesday night, the Weather Network says we may see a string of cold nights, with overnight lows of -5ºC for three nights in a row. I didn’t like that forecast, so I went to see what Environment Canada had to say… [Grits teeth] It’s worse! They’re saying minus seven on Thursday night. Really? It’s May. Would an afternoon on the deck be too much to ask?

Oh, well. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

May 3, 2020: Tipping Point

Yes it snowed last night. Not a lot, but I had to scrape the car windows.

Yesterday, I talked about the trade-off between strong winds and low temperatures. When the lake is ice-covered, wind doesn’t make a lot of difference, so the near-freezing temperatures would win out. But once the lake is about one third open, wind can push the ice around and break it up. I wasn’t sure how this would play out while conditions were so cold, but the wind won.

My first clue was a comment from Minnie, who wrote to say she saw nothing but open water from the south shore. She was down by Morris Point and Warroad. Now you can’t see all that far from the shore, but Josh Broten takes his Cub up to ten thousand feet to get pictures from the US side, and from there, you can see a long way. Here’s what he got this afternoon.

You can click on these pictures to see a full-screen, zoomable version.

Big Traverse

So Minnie was right on. Not a scrap of ice to be seen on the south end of the lake.

Moose Lake

Moose Lake Provincial Park (middle distance) and Birch Point (foreground) are in the Manitoba corner of Lake of the Woods. No ice here, either.

Looking north east from the Northwest Angle

Clipper Island is at the lower left of this shot, Cochrane Island is almost touching the left edge, and Big Narrows is in the distance. That far-off ice is up towards Wiley Point, somewhere around Cintiss Island

Looking northeast  from over Falcon Island.

Beyond Falcon Island lies French Portage Narrows. At the left of the frame, near the wing strut, is Big Narrows. That’s the same patch of ice in the far distance.

 

Shoal Lake

I love this shot of Shoal Lake. There’s still a giant patch of white ice around Dominique and Stevens Islands, but the lake looks to be over half open, not just on the south shore, but also in the northern parts near the Trans-Canada highway.

In case you were wondering, it takes a long time to climb to ten thousand feet in a Cub. Thanks, Josh.

The Aqua and Terra satellites didn’t get a clear look at Lake of the Woods today, but skies cleared enough this afternoon for Aqua to get a partial view.

2020 False colour image from May 3rd. MODIS camera on NASA’s Aqua satellite.

What we can see is all that open water at the south end, and the patch of ice on Shoal Lake at the left. Subtle, but visible, is ice near Hay Island. The part of the lake south of the Barrier Islands is very hard to see. I think there’s some ice there.

Compare this to the clear and sharp image from April 30th.

2020 False colour image from April 30th. MODIS camera on NASA’s Aqua satellite.

Same satellite, same camera, just three days ago!

That’s why this post is titled Tipping Point. Once the ice is more than half gone, it goes suddenly.

However, if it seems cool to you for May, it is. A normal high this time of year is about 15ºC, and an average overnight low would be about 3ºC. Forecast temperatures continue to run cooler than that, with this week getting no warmer than 10ºC and perhaps only reaching  4º on Thursday. Overnight lows could dip as low as -4ºC.

Will we be able to melt the lake with those kinds of temperatures? Yes. But I’m not sure how rapidly. With normal temperatures, I’d expect the remaining ice to be gone in a couple of days, which would put us in the early May bracket, which is pretty common. With this forecast, I’m less sure, but I think we’re on track to do better than the May 14th thaw that Sean and I both predicted just a week ago.

We might be ice free by next weekend. Which is forecast to be cold, by the way. So far, the Weather Network is calling for highs of just six or seven next weekend.

And if that’s not enough to discourage you, remember that Ontario is not moving to lift pandemic restrictions as fast as Manitoba or Quebec, and Premier Doug Ford is flat-out asking out-of-province visitors to stay home. Here’s a link to Kenora Online‘s page with that story.

 

May 2, 2020: Satellite Saturday Plus

It’s cold again, but we have a strong wind. With the lake partly open, windy conditions have the potential to destroy ice wholesale, but this spring is being weird. There’s snow in the forecast tonight, and near-freezing overnight lows forecast for half the week. To be honest, I don’t know what to make of it.

Let’s do the satellite thing to try and get some perspective. An ‘overview’ if you will.

It’s been cloudy, so I can’t use images from May 2nd or even May 1st; the most recent good pictures were from April 30th.  My first thought was to compare those to April 30th of last year, but no such luck; it was cloudy at the end of April last year. Moving back another year to April 30th of 2018? Score! Clear shots. Here’s why it makes sense to compare this year to that one. 2018, 2019 and 2020 were late starting thaws in cold spring weather. The ice cleared fairly rapidly in both 2018 and 2019, with the lake going ice-free on May 14th both years. This year we got an even later start, courtesy of some nasty cold April weather, but given that the ice was not that thick, Sean and I both thought we could catch up and completely thaw the lake by about the 14th.

These are false-colour images: the brighter the blue, the thicker the ice, and open water is black. These pictures are not zoomable: this is all the resolution there is.

However, if you click on the top picture, you’ll see an archive image with some landmarks labelled to help you get oriented. Pay no attention to the ice cover in that file photo.

Okay, let’s look at the pictures:

2018 False-colour image from April 30th. MODIS camera on NASA’s Terra satellite.

2020 False colour image from April 30th. MODIS camera on NASA’s Aqua satellite.

Well, huh. Aside from the fact that this year’s image is sharper (they vary) it’s pretty clear that we have less ice this year than two years ago on the same date.

It looks as if large parts of cottage country have open water already, and once we reach this stage, the rest of the lake is not usually far behind.

If we had a decent weather forecast, I’d be confident that the lake was going to be ice-free earlier than the 14th. However, we have several days of unseasonably cold temperatures coming up. I just don’t know.

I haven’t been able to cover the Sioux Narrows area this year. Ordinarily, I’d make a little detour on the way home from Dryden now and then, but the pandemic has grounded me this spring, so I couldn’t do that.

I was happy to receive this picture from Tony Lord this evening.

Regina Bay – Sioux Narrows. Taken just south of Crystal Harbour and looking East. The island in the foreground is Kennard Island.

Tony says: Ice at our dock was up to 8” thick in places but breaking up on Thursday morning with sections of open water. By Friday afternoon the majority of the bay that we can see is open except a stretch immediately North (left) of Kennard Island.

Thanks, Tony.

Okay, now we have to talk about the pandemic restrictions. Ontario Premier Doug Ford has announced that some businesses will be able to open soon, with restrictions.

For instance, marinas will  be allowed to put boats in the water. BUT! That doesn’t mean you can go boating. The marinas aren’t going to be open to the public, and the boats have to stay tied to a dock. They’re just being allowed to catch up on a backlog of launching boats. Actually letting people take their boat will have to wait.

Here’s a link to the full Kenora Online article on this story.

 

April 25, 2020: Jason Duguay / Satellite Saturday

Jason Duguay is a paramedic with ORNGE, the people with the medevac helicopter. This morning one of his trips was cancelled en route, so he was free to take some pictures on the way back to base.

You can click on these pictures to see them full-screen, and those images can be zoomed to full resolution.

Queer Island dominates the foreground of this shot that looks  ENE. Bigstone Bay is near the top left corner of the frame, Andrew Bay at the right. Quite a lot of open water bending around Queer Island and Railroad Island.

Scotty Island is in the centre of this photo, with Middle Island to the right of it. Slate Island in the foreground, partly cut off at the right edge. The ice roads are holding together, but much of this ice looks weak. At the upper left is open water near Town Island.

Thompson Island and Holmstrom’s Marsh are near the middle of this picture, and here you can see that water flowing past Town Island and through Keewatin Channel.

Keewatin Channel from the other end. I think the Keewatin Bridge is just obscured by the window frame at the lower right. Anyway, Cameron Island is near the middle of the picture, and next to it, with a streak of window reflection across it, is Mackies Island. Lots of water, here, with the nearby exception of Rat Portage Bay, at the left side of the frame.

Here’s a better look at Rat Portage Bay, with Gun Club Island surrounded by ice. That happens every spring, there’s not a lot of current through there, so the ice persists. In the foreground are the western parts of Coney Island. Still lots of ice further out on the lake.

Thanks for the great pictures, Jason!

Let’s take a look at some recent satellite imagery.

These shots are from April 23rd, because April 24th’s pictures were blurred, and today’s aren’t available yet.

If you click on this picture, you’ll see a similar photo  with some key landmarks on the lake labelled to help you get oriented. It’s an old picture from 2018: it’s just for reference.

This is the natural colour version, and near the middle of the picture you can see that open water from Jason’s first photo above. A little south west of that, there’s open water running through Big Narrows. At the south end of the lake, the Rainy River has cleared most of the ice from Fourmile Bay, and towards the top of the picture, it looks like the Winnipeg River is almost entirely open as far as Minaki.

Here’s the false-colour version of the same image. It’s a bit easier to tell the difference between cloud and ice. Thicker ice is pale blue, thinner ice is darker blue, and open water is nearly black.

Okay, that’s it for today. I know it’s frustrating for all the Ice Patrol followers that cannot come to the lake right now. Please be patient, and keep in mind that when travel does become possible, large gatherings won’t be part of the lake-life picture.

April 4, 2020: Satellite Saturday

Kenora caught the tail end of Manitoba’s big storm. Before dawn on Friday, we had freezing rain, and then it turned to snow sometime around sunrise.

Friday stayed nasty all day, and when the skies cleared overnight the temperature dropped to -16ºC. There was no wind, so ice formed on quiet waters.

Here’s a picture taken from the highway between Keewatin and Norman.

20200404_112347

See that shiny surface beyond the fresh layer of snow? That’s new ice. The open water is in the distance, where the ripples are. You can click on this picture to see it in high resolution.

For Satellite Saturday, since it’s too early to really see open water from space, I thought I’d put up photos from before and after the winter storm.

You cannot enlarge these pictures; they are at the maximum resolution available.

For a comparable satellite picture with some landmarks labelled, visit the FAQ page and scroll down.

This is the before pic, from March 31st. Notice that the forest is starting to look green.

Naturally, it was too cloudy to take pictures during the storm, but the skies cleared today.

Same camera, same satellite, April 4th. You can see that Shoal Lake, at the left, looks much whiter with its new layer of snow. The same is true of the Clearwater Bay and Ptarmigan Bay area east of Shoal, and also Buffalo Bay and Muskeg Bay, in the south west corner of the lake. The forested areas look less green, probably because of snow on the ground. A cloudy patch hid the Winnipeg River today.

I’ll finish with a couple of bonus pictures.

This is Piper checking out the geese and ducks last week on Tunnel Island.

And this is what our walk looked like this morning.

Stay well. Don’t forget to wipe down your smart phone.

May 13, 2019: The Last Ice

Today I went looking to see if any ice remains on Lake of the Woods. I did find some, south of the Barrier Islands, but it’s just little patches of loose, candled ice.

The photo above is from around 10:00 this morning, and looks south over Allie Island towards the Alneau Peninsula. I’ve circled the area of interest so you’ll know where to zoom in for a better look. At full resolution, that’s clearly ice.

I thought a little patch of weak ice like that wouldn’t last long, so I was looking forward to checking on it on my return in the afternoon.

We came back at about 5:00 and after checking to see that Big Sand Lake, north of Minaki was open, (too far away to photograph, but it is open) I started with a picture of Shoal Lake.

As far as I can tell, Shoal Lake is wide open. Because it’s deep, It often clears about three days later than Lake of the Woods, but this year it cleared earlier.

Next shot, Big Narrows.

Looking south. Left of centre is Wiley Point, with Big Narrows above the middle of the picture. In the distance, is that ice on Little Traverse? It was so hazy I wasn’t sure, but there was ice there the other day.

Next, I checked on that ice south of Allie Island.

In the centre of the picture, you can see it’s falling apart, but it’s not gone.

There was a lot of discussion about Bigstone Bay over the weekend, so I wanted to get a bird’s eye view.

This picture is centred on Scotty Island, with Middle Island and Hay Island stretching away to the right. Bigstone Bay appears to be entirely clear.

Next, a closer look at Bare Point and Pine Portage Bay.

Bare Point Marina and Northern Harbour, on Pine Portage Bay, are key access points for Bigstone Bay and Hay Island. Both are wide open now. I counted about twenty boats in the water at Northern Harbour this afternoon. There might be more, but the bigger boats are easier to see.

So although a small amount of ice persists, the lake is essentially open for boating.

Let’s go to the satellite imagery, Bob.

Aqua‘s image was spoiled by cloud today, but Terra got a pretty good shot. The white circle encompasses Rabbit Lake, Round Lake and Laurenson’s Lake, which are good markers for picking out Kenora. The small red circle is the surviving ice south of Allie Island. The large red circle indicates the area of possible ice on Little Traverse, but the satellite image shows nothing except a streak of cloud.

Fun with Clouds, Part Two: at the top left, our friends the fair-weather cumulus. At the right, in blue, high altitude clouds made of ice crystals. In the lower part of the picture, clouds of vertical development: towering cumulus or nascent thunderclouds, with watery bases and icy tops. When clouds like this become full-grown thunderheads, the vertical movement of water droplets up and down through the freezing level forms hailstones.

Summary: only one tiny patch of weak ice remains on Lake of the Woods today, and it will be gone tomorrow.

That means we’ll be ice free on exactly the same date as last year, which kind of makes sense given how the winters were similar in both duration and coldness.

I say kind of, because although the winters had a lot in common, the springs were quite different. 2018 was a late, cold spring that turned really warm at the end of April. 2019 was a slow, cool spring with few warm days.

Here’s Sean’s updated graph of our temperature progress this spring.

Overall, you can see we had moderate thawing this year, with the blue dots showing that mean daily temperatures added up slowly, especially in late April. When Sean and I first modelled this year’s forecast, we chose a thaw index of 240, because that’s how much heat it took to melt last  year’s ice, and the two winters were similar. In the end, although the predicted date for ice-out came close, the actual amount of heat it took to do it was less than we thought, and this graph shows a revised forecast with the expected thaw index reduced to 190.

Basically, we assume that a long cold winter makes lots of ice, and it will take lots of warm days to melt it all. That’s simplifying, and we know it. The brutal winter of 2014 thawed with an index of 194, so 190 is not unreasonable. Perhaps last year’s 240 points was an oddity.

In any event, we didn’t need as many thaw days as we first thought. Sean offers these technical insights:

Sources of error are plenty in this high level statistical analysis. Wind, direct sunlight, rain, ice thickness, snow thickness etc are all variables that the analysis does not take into account.

Our ratio of freezing index to thawing index was right around 10 this year, which is the average for the last 15 years or so. Our initial prediction this year was conservative based off of last years data and went with 7.5 freezing index to thawing index ratio.

If we had ignored last year’s unusual thaw, we would have used a ratio of 10 and gone with an index of 200. That would have been close.

That’s basically it for this year. I’ll do a wrap up post when I can confirm that last patch of ice is gone, and I’ll update the different graphs that show how this spring compares to recent years.

Now that boats are hitting the water, it’s time for my annual reminder that the stretch of Safety Bay from Bush Island west to Norman is a licensed Water Aerodrome: an airport for float planes. Please watch out for them when boating in this area. Think of it as a runway. For safety reasons, float planes have the right of way when taking off or landing. When taxiing, they are supposed to be like any other watercraft, but from experience, I can tell you that they cannot decelerate quickly or turn sharply. Do be careful around them.

May 11, 2019: Satellite Saturday

Aqua didn’t get a perfect look at Lake of the Woods today, due to some high thin cloud, but Terra had an unobstructed view, and got a beautiful sharp image.

Here’s the false-colour version first:

The three large ice sheets seen yesterday—on Shoal Lake, in Little Traverse, and south of the Barrier Islands—have all shrunk dramatically. The smaller patch on Bigstone Bay seems to have gone completely.

Fun with clouds: the fair-weather cumulus clouds at the left edge of the frame are low: you can tell because their shadows are sharp and tight.* The big patch of cloud in the upper right corner is higher, and the shadow is softer and wider. The cotton-candy clouds at the lower right are higher altitude, so their shadows are fuzzy and widely separated. It’s cold up there; these clouds are blue because they are composed of ice.

*When I see drifting herds of clouds like these over the prairies, I call them buffalo ghosts.

Here’s the natural colour version of the same image:

The details of the lake don’t stand out as well, but the ice is very plain to see. Interestingly, the city of Kenora is easy to spot: look directly above the most northerly ice sheet, and you’ll see a sprawling beige area. That’s Kenora. Now that you know where to look, squint at the false-colour image, and you can make out our three suburban lakes: Rabbit, Round and Laurenson’s.

There’s a bit more to say about Bigstone Bay. Keep in mind that a sheet of ice a kilometre square would only be a tiny speck of four pixels on one of these satellite images, so absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

I got this comment from Jeff, who finally reached Hay Island this afternoon.

I made it to Hay, all of Bigstone ice free, except for some in front of Smith Camps, which that is likely gone by now or close to.

Smith Camps is located on Thunder Bay, just east of Pine Portage Bay and Heenan point.

I received this picture from Ted Main at about 3:00 this afternoon.

Ted says: Here is a picture from Thunder Ridge Road (Heenan point) facing north to Northern Harbour.

There are patches of candled ice in the foreground, and perhaps a more extensive sheet towards Pine Portage Bay in the distance.

A note on the weather: a week or so ago, the outlook was dismal, with temperatures expected to run consistently a little below normal until the second half of May. We did better than that today: we spent several hours at 19ºC this afternoon, which is actually slightly above normal for  mid-May. It was lovely. I got the patio furniture out, and we had drinks on the deck. The Weather Network’s 14-day forecast now says that although daytime highs will run a little shy of normal, overnight lows will be on the mild side.

 

May 10, 2019: Almost There

Here’s today’s satellite image from Terra.

This picture’s a little blurry, but it’s clear enough to tell the tale. Shoal Lake is trying to hide under a cloud but there’s still ice in the main part of Shoal. On Lake of the Woods, a large sheet of ice survives on Little Traverse, and there’s a smaller sheet south of the Barrier Islands at the centre of the picture.  Just above that is Hay Island’s distinctive “battleaxe” shape and although I thought Bigstone Bay might be fully open, there’s still a fuzzy blue patch there, representing weak ice.

There’s no longer any ice visible in the Clearwater Bay or Ptarmigan Bay areas, but anything less than a kilometre square (four pixels) would be invisible at this resolution.