May 15, 2022: Is it Gone?

Yesterday, there was still significant ice in the Manitou, but not much anywhere else, unless there was some down in the Big Traverse.

Devon Ostir has a dock cam with a view across the Manitou towards Whisky Island, with a smaller, nameless island in the foreground. Yesterday, he sent in a picture that showed quite a lot of ice clustered around his property, and he promised to send another when the ice was gone. He made that update at around suppertime last night.

Here are a pair of pictures that show the last ice going from his location on Hare Island.

Yes, you can click on them if you want to see a larger version.

Devon Ostir’s dock cam at 4:52pm on May 14.

Devon Ostir’s dock cam at 6:36pm on May 14.

Naturally, I checked the weather for that time frame, and saw that the wind, which had been from the south or southwest most of the afternoon, became westerly at 5:00pm.

This ice was part of the largest remnant in the northern half of the lake. Has the wind destroyed it or merely shifted it? I hope to find out today.

If you’re out boating in the Manitou today, drop me a line if you do encounter any ice. Same goes for any of my pilot friends. Please remember that even if the ice is gone, the high water will have resulted in lots of ‘deadheads’: floating logs or timbers. Also, some rocks that used to be visible will now be lurking as submerged reefs.

We missed Satellite Saturday yesterday, so here’s how things have been developing there.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Terra satellite, May 13, 2022, in false colour.

I’m fairly certain that the blue patch seen near the Northwest Angle on Friday is ice. There might be some showing on Shoal Lake, too. Cloud cover makes it hard to tell if there’s any ice in Buffalo Bay, as seen in Jared Cantor’s photos from Saturday morning.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Terra satellite, May 14, 2022, in false colour.

On Saturday we only got this partial view of Lake of the Woods from Terra, and Aqua’s view was worse. There might be some ice on the south end of the lake, but at least some of that blue is probably wisps of ice cloud.

The only debate now is whether ice-out was yesterday, or will be today or tomorrow. I don’t think I’ll be able to positively confirm it for yesterday, so it will likely go on the graph as the 15th or 16th, depending on what information I receive today.

The weather:

Some cool temperatures are coming in the next week, along with some more rain. The rainfall amounts could be in the 10mm range, which would be bad, as water levels are already very high. As for the temperatures, it might drop as low as 0°C on Friday night. As we start the long weekend, grr. I suppose the garden hose will have to stay in the basement a little longer. We might see a skin of ice on puddles, but certainly not on lakes.

 

 

May 10, 2022: It’s Going Fast

Yesterday, Ice Patrol and I took a day off, as poor weather meant I had no pictures to share. I felt a warm spell and then wind and wet weather should have made a big difference, but I had no way to see how much, and I didn’t want to speculate.

But today the sun came out, and we got some answers. Both Aqua and Terra satellites got good shots with their MODIS equipment today.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Aqua satellite, May 10, 2022, in false colour.

There are big changes visible in the few hours between Aqua’s pass and Terra‘s.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Terra satellite, May 10, 2022, in false colour.

It looks as if the lake has lost about half of its ice. Normally, I’d say things should go fast from this point, but they already are!

The nice weather brought out the pilots, too, and I received a lot of pictures today. Tom Hutton had a chance to take a great series of pictures of the east side of the lake as he flew from Fort Frances to Kenora in sunny (but very bumpy) conditions.

You can click on Tom’s pictures to see larger, zoomable versions with more detail.

Nestor Falls.

Tom’s route brought him to Lake of the Woods at roughly Nestor Falls. Lots of water here now.

Then Whitefish Bay, which we seldom get pictures of.

Whitefish Bay.

In this shot, it looks like Whitefish Bay has entirely melted. But we need to take a closer look at the northern part of the bay.

Northern part of Whitefish Bay. Sioux Narrows is visible at the right, below the propeller blade tip.

Turns out there’s still extensive ice on the north half of Whitefish.

Whitefish Narrows.

Whitefish Narrows is just below the blade tip. These narrows are actually early to thaw, but this year it has taken some time for that open water to spread into Whitefish Bay.

West end of Long Bay and Yellow Girl Bay.

Still ice in Yellow Girl Bay. And plenty more to the north west.

The Barrier Islands and the Eastern Peninsula.

This shows almost the full stretch of the Barrier Islands. The Elbow is at the left, and French Narrows are near the middle. Lots of ice south of the Barrier Islands, which is typical. The distant ice is the Manitou.

West Manitou.

In the picture above, Birch Island is above the centre, and part of Whisky Island is at the right edge. Almost all ice here, as this is another late-thawing area.

 

East Manitou.

We’re getting closer to Kenora now. The curved beach at Scotty Island is just at the right edge of the frame.

Wildcat Island and Anchor Island.

Wildcat is in the centre. The foreground ice touches Hough Island and sticks to the shore of Thompson Island at the left. Holmstrom’s Marsh still looks icy.

Treaty Island.

Treaty Island dominates this picture, with Shragge’s Island just by the propeller spinner.* Notice how the ice roads are holding on between Treaty Island and Rogers Island, just above the engine nacelle.** Further left, by the tip of the propeller blade, the ice roads around Gun Club Island in Rat Portage Bay are breaking up and moving around. That’s significant, because Gun Club Island is usually late to break free.

*The shiny cover at the centre of the propeller is called the spinner. It’s like a hubcap, but very firmly attached.

**The streamlined fairings that cover the engines on a twin-engined airplane are the nacelles. On this King Air, the nacelles are painted white.

I wanted to see Pine Portage Bay, because Barb Enders sent me two pictures of Northern Harbour on the weekend. The first was taken just before noon on Friday. The second was taken on Sunday morning, just 46 hours later, and there was a spectacular change in the condition of the ice.

Pine Portage Bay.

Looks like the ice is still holding on there. At the right of the photo, you can see that Bigstone Bay is still ice-covered, too. Slow currents mean that Bigstone usually lags behind.

Our last shot from Tom shows the downtown Kenora waterfront and part of Coney Island. Thanks, Tom!

Coney Island.

There are still sizeable pans of ice south of Coney, around Goat Island and Johnson Island in Rat Portage Bay. Most years, once those were gone, the Coney Island footbridge would be removed to facilitate boat traffic. But not this year.

The Coney Island footbridge was damaged by wind and ice on Monday evening. You can read about it on Kenora Online.

So that’s one sign of spring we’ll have to do without this year, but there are others.

The first floatplane docked on the Kenora harbourfront today. River Air’s Caravan will be followed by more of their planes tomorrow. The pilots who brought it down from Minaki, Jamie Clemmens and Robyn Warken, took some pictures for me, but there were technical issues, and I’m still working on that.

Josh Broten took some pictures today, too, and they’ll round out the lake coverage with photos of the south west portion. It’s getting late, so I’ll put them up tomorrow morning.

Thanks everyone!

The weather outlook for the next while is a mixed bag, with more cloud and some showers. Temperatures will be mostly back to near normal, but with cooler conditions as the weekend arrives, naturally. Things should recover a bit a few days later.

May 8, 2022: Satellite Sunday?

Not really. These pictures are from Saturday the 7th, but they missed the deadline for getting posted yesterday.

The good news is, we got a solid pass from Sentinel 2 yesterday. This ESA satellite has a narrow field of view, so it doesn’t often image all of Lake of the Woods*. But when it does, the resolution is a dream.

*For broad coverage, the MODIS cameras on NASA’s Aqua and Terra satellites are better, and they pass overhead every day. But their images of Lake of the Woods are small, and cannot be enlarged.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Terra satellite, May 7, 2022, in false colour.

This is a MODIS image from yesterday. The cloud cover is different from the pictures below because Terra and Sentinel 2 made their passes some hours apart.

 

Let’s start with Sentinel 2‘s view of the whole lake, in Short-wave Infrared. You can enlarge this image by clicking on it to see it full screen.

Sentinel 2 image of Lake of the Woods in Short-wave Infrared, May 7, 2022.

I don’t know if the SWIR version of a Sentinel 2 image is directly comparable to a MODIS false-colour image, but it’s very similar.

It’s very clear that ice quality is now deteriorating fast all over Lake of the Woods.

There was cloud in the northern parts of the lake yesterday, spoiling Sentinel 2’s view, so let’s take the opportunity to take a closer look at the south half of the lake, which I seldom get good images of. [It’s too much of a detour for a Kenora-based flight.] Shots of Morson and Sabaskong Bay are regrettably rare.

You can click on the following images to see them full-screen and zoomable.

Southern portion of Lake of the Woods, at higher magnification.

This is from the same image, but zoomed in even more. Click on it and enlarge it all the way to see a lot of detail. I had to cut it off just north of Big Narrows to keep the file size below the 3GB limit set by WordPress. Even then, it took me two tries to upload it to their server.

As I was preparing this post, Terry and Mary James used the comment box to ask about whether their interpretation of what the MODIS images showed at Roughrock Lake was correct.

So l’m going to show them (and you) what Sentinel 2 can really do! Note the scale at the bottom right corner. 1km is about as tight as it will go. You can try to enlarge it further, but the image gets fuzzier.

Roughrock Lake, Big Sand Lake, Little Sand Lake.

Also, this timely comment from Bargeman, via email:

I live in Minaki and have had a boat in for the last week. My wife and I broke up the last bit of ice in the middle of Little Sand Lake to Rough Rock Narrows on Thursday. So the river is open from dam to dam. This has been the quickest opening (from looking very dubious about ice being gone by May long) I can remember. The water rising creating cracks everywhere around the shorelines combined with the strong current has increased open water way quicker….thank goodness. We have Sand Lake Outpost on Big Sand Lake at it is looking like our long weekend guests will be able to stay at our place on Deadman’s Island, just north of Harbour Island.

Hope this answers your question, Terry!

So while I’m at it, let’s see if I can find something for Pete Giroux. He has a place on the Manitou Stretch, east of Lake of the Woods.

East of Sioux Narrows and Highway 71.

I think you’re in luck, Pete: this is right at the eastern edge of Sentinel 2’s latest swath.

I was also curious to see how things were looking further north, up by Red Lake and Trout Lake, but that area was covered with cloud.

Recent warm–and now moist–weather are moving things along very quickly. I tried take a look back at 2014, which was the last time we had such a late thaw. MODIS images are not available for May 6 through 9 because of cloud. The May 5 image shows only a little of the lake, and the May 10 image is blurry, but I think I can say we’re pulling ahead of spring 2014.

Aerial photos I took at around these dates in 2014 were shot in rainy weather, and are hard to make out, but I think they also show we’re doing better.

That would be good, because the lake wasn’t entirely clear until May 21 that year.

I’m confident we’re on track to keep up with Sean’s recent prediction of May 18, and since the weather has been warmer than the forecast he was working with, he may be able revise his graphs again next week.

Keep in mind that when we talk about ice-out on Lake of the Woods Ice Patrol, we mean the whole lake, entirely free of ice. Significant areas are opening to boat traffic every day, and things will be improving daily. One of the bottlenecks we face right now is a lack of  Marina access. Northern Harbour is situated on deep water, and is still iced in. Two Bears Marina, in Keewatin, has soft ice all around their docks and were not operating yet when I stopped by yesterday. Devil’s Gap Marina might have enough water to launch boats, but their open water doesn’t reach very far yet.

I haven’t surveyed a full list of marinas, but if you’re a marina operator, and you have news, feel free to use the comments form on the ABOUT page to let us know how things are shaping up for you. Are you launching yet, or opening soon?

Do you have friends who would want to follow Ice Patrol? I often get emails from people asking to get on the list. THERE IS NO LIST! To follow Ice Patrol and get the emails, visit the Ice Patrol home page and look for the FOLLOW button at the right side. Click it, and you’ll get an email every time I post a new article. If you change your mind, visit again and simply UNFOLLOW.

However, those emails do not tell the whole story. For one thing, if I update a post, a new email does not go out. If you want more, including updates, comments, links, access to archives and satellite images, and an FAQ page that is helpful to new users, visit the actual website.

To ensure that you see updates, use the refresh button on your browser to reload the page.

The emails are timely and keep you updated, but the website is the real thing.

 

May 7, 2022: Satellite Saturday

We’ve had almost a whole week of sunny weather, so at least one of the NASA satellites got a picture for five days running.

I was hoping to put them together as an animated gif or a slide show, but it didn’t work well.

I’ll just show them in reverse order so you can compare.

If you need help getting oriented, go to the last one, May 3, and click on it. You’ll see a version with some landmarks labelled.

May 7.

May 6.

May 5.

May 4.

May 3.

The amount of progress in five days is impressive. The amount of open water is very different in the first and last pictures. But it’s the steady change in the colour (and strength) of the ice that is most important.

While we’re looking at things from overhead, Tom Lindstrom went cruising by in an airliner today and took a series of pictures from the cockpit. Many of them turned out kind of dark; I think his camera was dazzled by the brightness of the ice. I’ve enhanced the contrast on these two to improve the difference between islands and water, so they look a little odd, and the ice colour is not correct.

You can click on these pictures to see a larger version. Then zoom in, because these pictures are big

Kenora waters.

This picture covers everything from Kenora a the top left, to Second Channel at the bottom right. Zoom in and you can see the last patch of candled ice in Kenora Bay.

From Safety Bay to Bigstone Bay.

This second shot includes a wider area. Bigstone Bay is at the top right, Middle Island and Scotty Island are near the corner, Welcome Channel and Poplar Bay are halfway down the right side, and White Partridge is at the bottom.

The weather:

We hit at least 20°C yesterday, and it’s 22°C as I write this, exceeding both the forecast highs and seasonal averages. But just so you know, the record high for this date is 31.7°, set in 1953!

Now we’re supposed to get a couple of days of rain. Because weekend. But wet weather is not entirely bad. High humidity can have a powerful melting effect on ice. This is due to the energy released when water vapour condenses onto ice or snow. The humidity actually does more damage than the rain.

However, the rainy weather means we won’t get any satellite coverage until Tuesday, and it may not be good enough for my pilot friends to take pictures, either. So we’ll have a bit of an information blackout for a few days. If you go boating, you could use the comments form on the ABOUT page to let us know how you made out, and how far you got.

Signs of Spring:

I finally found time to put my summer tires on today.

Flies are out. Midges will be next, I think, and a friend mentioned that with all this standing water, the mosquitoes may get off to a roaring start this year.

I can’t find a bulletin on a planned date for the removal of the Coney Island pedestrian bridge yet. It gets scheduled for removal when the ice clears out between Kenora and Devil’s Gap, leaving the bridge as the only obstacle to boat traffic. That hasn’t happened yet.

 

May 6, 2022: Fresh Aerials

Justin Martin, my former Chief Pilot, was flying again today and had time to snap a few quick shots.

So here’s the speed tour. You can click on these pictures to see them enlarged.

Looking west over Laurenson’s Lake.

Note that Laurenson’s Lake is still frozen. There is actually a little water at the east end, off the bottom of the picture.

Devil’s Gap and Treaty Island.

Ice is yielding at both the inlet (left) and outlet (right) sides of Devil’s gap now. Open water is spreading into Rat Portage Bay, although Gun Club Island, as usual, is staying iced in a bit longer.

The plane swung left a little to show the Manitou better.

Town Island and the Manitou.

Following Keewatin Channel out to the Manitou is one of the main ways to reach open water from Kenora, and it opens earlier than Devil’s Gap. I think next week Scotty Island will be reachable by boat.

Big Narrows and Wiley Point.

Open water continues to expand all around Big Narrows. Looks like Wiley Point is getting its toes wet now.

The Barrier Islands, seen from the south side.

Justin took several pictures of the Barrier Islands area around the Elbow. I like this one best because you can see how the water is reaching north towards Middle Island and (eventually) town. The big patch of water at the left is the Elbow, and if you zoom in you can see that things are improving at French Narrows on the right.

Now that the ice is turning grey, the pressure ridges really stand out.

Thanks Justin!

Another sunny day, another MODIS shot. I think Aqua got better light quality than Terra today.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Aqua satellite, May 6, 2022, in false colour.

Open water continues to expand, and ice is softening all over the lake. It looks as if shorelines may be letting go, especially in the south half of the lake.

Signs of Spring:

On Kenora Bay, the ice is completely candled now. It will be gone very soon.

Motorcycles. I saw three today, and just heard another. Remember, riders need to avoid both potholes and patches of loose sand. Give them room in case they have to brake or evade.

Ticks. Found my first tick today, on my belly after walking Ebony. Yay.

Ebony gets refreshed after overheating.

No ticks on her, though, we checked. This is important because of Lyme Disease, which took the life of Piper, our previous dog. There’s a now a new option in tick preventative pills. Ask your vet.

May 5, 2022: Overview

So far this week, we’ve been looking at the lake one patch at a time. This morning, Jonathan O’Connor was aboard Air Canada’s flight AC259 from Toronto to Winnipeg. He sent in some photos.

Yes, you can click on these to see a larger version that you can zoom in on.

We’ll go from east to west, like Jonathan’s flight.

Whitefish Bay and Long Bay.

This is Whitefish Bay, and at the right of the photo is Highway 71. Don’t be fooled by the powerline, which is straighter and more obvious. The road is closer to the right edge, and much wigglier. Zoom in and you can see the open water at the  Sioux Narrows bridge. Because the camera is pointed down for this shot, it provides a good look at the condition of the ice, which looks soft.

Here’s his view of the northern part of Lake of the Woods.

North of the Alneau Peninsula.

In the foreground is the Alneau Peninsula. The Barrier Islands stretch across the middle of the frame, and if you look closely, you can see the big patch of open water at the Elbow. Above the middle to the right are Hay Island, Bigstone Bay and Longbow Lake. Towards the upper left, the water in Keewatin Channel is hard to distinguish from the land unless you zoom in. From high altitudes, the haze tends to make trees and water look a similar shade of blue, especially in the distance.

Big Narrows.

As the plane travelled west, Jonathan captured this view of Big Narrows that also shows Ptarmigan in the distance.

Thanks, Jonathan!

The continuing clear weather means there are new satellite images every day. I’ll put together a look at the whole week on Satellite Saturday, but in the meantime, here’s today’s shot from Terra.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Terra satellite, May 5, 2022, in false colour.

We also have a new drone Panorama from Paul Leischow.

As usual, clicking on the still image below will take you to a panorama that you can watch, or use your mouse to interact with.

Drone view of Keewatin Channel.

It’s worth mentioning that at this time of year, this whole area would usually be all open water, with lots of boat traffic.

Thanks, Paul!

Two things are happening on Friday: Sean will reveal how the actual weather and the changes to the weather forecast affect his graphs predicting the likely timing of ice-out.

I’ll be live on Q-104 with Ken O’Neil at 7:50am to talk about that, and how the sudden arrival of spring weather is changing things.

May 3, 2022: Signs of Progress

Well okay. The thaw has finally started.

Thanks to the wet weather, the snow in town is mostly gone. Some of the larger snowbanks persist, but streets and sidewalks are basically dry.

So what about the lake? Justin Martin was out flying at around midday today, and sent me some pictures.

You can click on these photographs to see a larger, zoomable version.

We’ll start the tour at Northern Harbour on Pine Portage Bay.

Pine Portage Bay, looking west over Bald Indian Bay.

The docks at Northern Harbour are at the lower right corner of the picture, and they’re completely ice-locked.

The next picture moves forwards and swings a little to the left to show Scotty Island and Middle Island.

In an Ice Patrol post almost a week ago, there were signs of weak ice to the south of Keewatin Channel. Wet weather since then should have made a difference. And it has.

Needle Point, the northern tip of Hay Island, is in the foreground. Behind it are Middle Island and Scotty Island. To the right are Nanton’s Island and Lunny’s Island, and Town Island is at the right edge.

Now we can see open water extending past Town Island, and reaching as close to Scotty Island as Anchor Island.

Time to check on the Barrier Islands.

Looking west over Square Island at the Barrier Islands.

The most notable thing in this view is the large patch of open water at The Elbow.  There’s more water at Queer Island, and I think that’s a new development. At the left of the picture, French Narrows isn’t showing much change yet, but all the ice in the foreground looks soft.

There’s progress down at Big Narrows, too.

Tranquil Channel and Big Narrows.

Lots of water here. Donald Duck Island is at the lower right, and this view makes it obvious how it got its name. The ice in this area looks fairly sound.

Next up, Ptarmigan Bay.

Ptarmigan Bay, with Clearwater and Deception in the distance.

The photo above shows most of Ptarmigan Bay and Clearwater Bay. By and large, it’s all frozen.

There’s one exception.

Open water at Ash Rapids.

That’s our round-up for today. Thanks, Justin!

Generally speaking, the ice is softening in areas with current, and areas of open water are expanding slowly.

Warmer weather is on the way, so we can hope for more progress in the days to come.

Today’s clear skies meant that Terra got a good look at us.

If you click on this satellite image, you’ll see a version with some landmarks tagged.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Terra satellite, May 3, 2022, in false colour.

There are more patches of black, representing open water, and the land seems to have a lot less snow.

Here’s how it looked one week ago, if you want to see the change.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Aqua satellite, April 26, 2022, in false colour.

Seeing the images together also reveals how the quality of the ice has changed in a week. Notice how much darker the ice looks in the upper image. That indicates that it has grown weaker.

It’s not very helpful to look back on May 3rd of previous years. Often the lake was open by now, or nearly so. The one year that would be worth a look was 2014, another notoriously late year. I checked the archives at the University of Wisconsin at Madison’s website, and the pictures from early May of 2014 are mostly cloudy. From what I can see, the lake looked about the same. That year, Lake of the Woods wasn’t ice-free until May 21.

Signs of spring: the pelicans are back.

I think it’s time to mount my summer tires. We might actually see temperatures as high as 16°C this week. That’s a whole degree above average.

April 30, 2022: Satellite Saturday

Well, it’s raining again. We’re setting records for April precipitation as I write this.

That means the last couple of days haven’t been good for satellite photos, but we got an exceptionally good look at the lake on Wednesday. Sentinel 2 is a European Space Agency satellite that takes high resolution pictures. It doesn’t come our way every day, and when it does, it often images only part of the lake because of it’s narrow field of view.

But on Wednesday, everything aligned.

You can click on these pictures to see them at higher resolution!

Sentinel 2 image of Lake of the Woods, in true colour.

Yes, that’s a colour photo. There’s just not a lot of green in our landscape yet.

But if you’d like something a bit more vibrant, Sentinel 2 also offers a short-wave infrared option.

Sentinel 2 image of Lake of the Woods, in short-wave infrared.

Note the scale (5km) in the bottom right corner. But wait, there’s more good news. This satellite can show more detail than this. I can’t upload a picture of the whole lake at the highest resolution; the file is too big. But I can zoom in for a better look at the north part of the lake, and upload that.

Don’t forget to click on these images to see the full-screen version. Click on that to see the picture’s full resolution.

Sentinel 2 image of the northern part of Lake of the Woods in short-wave infrared.

So on this image, I thought I noticed something. In a recent aerial photo from Tom Hutton, taken the same day, you could see rotten ice south of the Keewatin Channel, extending past Town Island towards Scotty.

Let’s zoom in even tighter on that area, to a 1km scale.

Sentinel 2 image of the Wendigo and Bigstone Bay in short-wave infrared.

Now we can clearly see the dark blotches of softening ice, extending from the open water in Keewatin Channel and Second Channel at the upper left, towards Scotty Island near the middle of the frame.

This is the ice that I expect to yield next.

It’s also worth noting that there are multiple tiny patches of water visible in the vicinity of Middle Island, at Eagle Pass at the east end of Hay Island, and near Railroad Island, south of Hay.

Rapidly rising lake levels, and more importantly, the increasing outflows through the Norman Dam* that the rising water necessitates, should help to erode more ice, starting in these areas with significant currents.

*The Lake of the Woods Control Board strives to keep the lake levels within specified limits. A month ago, the lake was pretty low. Multiple Colorado lows have dumped a lot of first snow, and then rain in the lake’s drainage basin. The board reports that the average lake level has been rising by over an inch a day, (25cm in a week) and will continue at close to that rate for several more days. In the meantime, outflow through the dam has gone from 450 cubic metres per second three weeks ago to more than double that, at 925. Fun fact: a cubic metre of fresh water masses one tonne.

So enjoy the rain!

April 27, 2022: Clear Skies

After several days of poor weather, skies finally lifted yesterday. That brought the aerial photographers out.

Tom Lindstrom, one of my airline pilot friends, was passing overhead in a 737 yesterday, and although Kenora was covered by cloud when he went by, he found Dryden in the clear.

Here’s a look at how things are going on Wabigoon Lake.

You can click on this picture to see a much larger, zoomable version.

The only open water I can see is in the Wabigoon River. Even the smaller lakes around the Dryden Regional Airport are still ice-covered. This shows that we are still at the stage where melting is only happening due to water flow.

Tom Lindstrom has contributed photos to Ice Patrol before, and knew I was anxious for fresh shots this spring. Thanks, Tom!

We also have a new contributor. Scott Benson has been an Ice Patrol follower for years, and yesterday he sent me photographs of Lake of the Woods taken from his Piper PA-12 on skis.

You can click on these pictures to see much larger, zoomable versions.

Looking East across Big Narrows, with the twin fingers of Ferris Island near the centre of the shot.

Don’t be fooled by the subtle difference between ice and water in the distance. If you zoom in for a closer look, it’s almost all ice.

Tranquil Channel, looking north at De Noyon Island. Big Narrows Island stretches out from under the wing strut, and there’s more open water to the north of it, in the main channel.

There’s a clear pattern here. There’s only open water in passages with current. The vast majority of the lake is still ice-covered.

Redwater Bay, south of Tranquil Channel, looking east. The current has opened a little water around Kennedy Island.

The west end of Long Bay, with part of Yellow Girl Bay at the right edge. Most of these islands are nameless on my charts, except for Pewabic Island near the right edge.

Tom Bowman was the first person to specify the exact location of this photo.

Water at the north west end of Yellow Girl Bay. South Strawberry Island is at the left edge, and Fog Island is in the distance above the centre of the frame.

Several people pitched in to help me figure out the location for this photo. Thanks to Jim Richardson, David Lindstrom and Doug LeBlanc for pointing me to Yellow Girl Bay. That led me to nearby parts of Long Bay to figure out the previous picture.

Thanks, Scott. I hope you’ll send more pictures in the coming weeks.

Now, let’s talk about how the thaw is progressing. We’ve been basically stalled for a month, with little progress during April. To illustrate that point, let’s compare yesterday’s satellite images to one from a month ago.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Aqua satellite, April 26, 2022.

 

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Aqua satellite, March 26, 2022.

Yes, there’s a little more open water now, but in many years, the change during that month would have been profound. Sometimes, total.

Okay, so it’s been cold recently. What about looking forward? The good news is, we’ve probably arrived at the Inflection Date. Finally. The seven day forecast says we’ll have above-freezing temperatures every day, and we could flirt with double-digit highs for a few of those days. Nighttime lows will be nearly always above freezing, but not by much.

That means the air temperatures will be mild enough to start actually melting ice, and it’s about time. The sun’s rays are powerful this time of year, and the days are long, so I hope to see steady progress. That’s the good news.

Working against us are two significant factors. One, it was a long, cold winter, and we probably still have a lot of ice. Two, the refreshingly mild temperatures in our forecast are not all that warm compared to seasonal norms. An average high for today’s date would be 12.6°C. The record high, set in 1952, was 28.9°C!

The long-term forecast holds out hope for some slightly better than average temperatures starting around May 5th, but the best number on there so far is a shot at hitting 15°C on one day. That’s not exactly a heat wave.

So if we have to thaw the entire lake with only so-so warmth, it’s still going to take some time. I heard from Sean Cockrem yesterday, and he’s all set to start graphing the data based on today as Inflection. I look forward to seeing his prediction, but even with the tendency of late thaws to move fast, I’m not expecting a miracle.

April 17, 2022: Aqua’s Back

After being offline for over two weeks, I’m delighted to see that NASA’s Aqua satellite is back on the job.

So we’ll have Satellite Saturday a few hours late.

If you click on these images, they won’t enlarge, but for the first few, you’ll see a version with some place labels added.

April 16, 2022 false colour image of Lake of the Woods from Aqua satellite.

This is how the lake looks after that fresh snowfall. The picture’s a little blurry, but I don’t think that’s a problem with Aqua‘s MODIS camera. It might be due to a thin veil of cloud.

We’ve had several days of cloud and snow, so to see what the lake looked like before the snowstorm, we have to go back all the way to April 8.

That’s during the period when Aqua was not transmitting, so here’s the image from Terra‘s matching MODIS camera.

April 8, 2022 false colour image of Lake of the Woods from Terra satellite.

Last week, there was no open water at the mouth of the Rainy River at the south end of the lake. That’s a positive development, but it seems to be the only significant change.

Now let’s take a look at some previous years, at around today’s date, starting with last year.

April 15, 2021 false colour image of Lake of the Woods from Aqua satellite.

Last year the lake was ice free by April 24th, so it’s no surprise that it looked very different.

2020 is worth a look because the thaw got off to a late start that year, with an Inflection Date of April 22.

April 17, 2020 false colour image of Lake of the Woods from Aqua satellite.

2020 was a weird year. Warm temperatures in March gave way to miserable cold in early April, and we had to reconsider the inflection date, changing it from an optimistic March 26 to April 22. Even so, the ice was a lot weaker by this point.

I’ll cut to the chase and show you what the lake looked like in mid-April of 2014, the worst spring since I started keeping track. I wasn’t using satellite images back then, so this shot has never appeared on Ice Patrol before, but the University of Wisconsin keeps their entire archive online.

April 16, 2014 false colour image of Lake of the Woods from Aqua satellite.

This shot shows an ice-covered lake, but large areas of that ice look bare, and perhaps thin. Overall, it looked better then than now, but if there’s a ray of hope, it’s that the Rainy River hadn’t started the ice away from the south shore yet. In 2014, the ice wasn’t gone until May 21.

The weather does not look promising in the short term. As I write this (in the middle of the night), we’re expecting overnight temperatures to sink to -10°C, and for today’s high to be just around zero. That won’t melt much snow, and in fact they’re predicting flurries today, with an accumulation of perhaps another 5cm.

Back in March, I thought we were heading for a latish thaw, with the lake ice-free by somewhere in the May 11-15 range. That no longer seems very likely.  To thaw the lake in four weeks, we’d need some warmer weather. Historically, temperatures at this time of year run to daytime highs of about 10°C, and overnight lows of right around freezing.  But the fourteen day outlook is for things to stay cooler than that, with more cloudy days than sunny ones. I now think it’s more likely that some ice will persist to around May 16-22. There’s a chance that this could be the latest thaw in decades.

Keep in mind that that’s for the lake to be entirely clear of ice. There should large areas of the lake open for cautious boating before then. Water-skiing, not so much.

Signs of spring: I saw a bald eagle over Cameron Bay yesterday.