May 16, 2022: All Clear

There was still some ice on the south end of the lake yesterday, in the vicinity of Oak Island. It may have been wiped out later in the day, but I don’t know for sure, and it might not have been the only patch left, so I’m using May 16th as our official ice-free date for Lake of the Woods this year. I believe Shoal Lake is also clear.

So let’s see how that stacks up.

The 2022 Brick Graph.

This year’s brick goes in the previously empty May 16th-20th slot, and shows 2022 as the second latest thaw in my records. It certainly feels like it.

Now let’s see how it looks on the Pancake Graph.

You can click on these to see larger versions with sharper text.

2022 Pancake Graph.

The rapidity of this year’s thaw is not quite as exceptional as I thought. 2020 was two days faster, and 2013 was a match, at nineteen days from Inflection Date to Ice-free and just one day earlier. Something that turned out to be not so similar was 2014. I drew a lot of comparisons this spring between this years melt and the one in 2014, because the thaws then and now both started late, ran to cold weather and featured high water levels. Despite having all those things in common, the ice went much faster this year.

This may have been partly due to the wet weather. Something I learned from meteorologists this year is that high humidity has a powerful melting effect on ice.

I’m curious to see how Sean Cockrem’s graphs look this spring. They’re more sophisticated than mine, and will reveal how this year’s temperature profile compares to those other years. It’s worth mentioning that some of Sean’s earlier predictions turned out to be pessimistic, but that’s because they were modeled on weather forecasts that also turned out to be pessimistic. If you tell Sean it’s going to be cold, he’s bound to respond that it will be a later melt.

Now that the May Long weekend is not overshadowed by the possibility of ice on the lake, we’re all set to start our summers, right?

Not so fast.

As I write this, the weather forecast is calling for gloomy conditions, with cloud, rain and below-normal temperatures for the next week. We could see near-freezing temperatures Friday and Saturday night, and it doesn’t currently look like the long weekend’s Saturday will be warm at all.  The Weather Networks says a high of just 7°C with showers of rain, perhaps mixed with snow! and Environment Canada is just a little more optimistic, suggesting partly cloudy and 10°C. For Sunday, they trade positions, calling for 15 and 12 respectively. An average high for the 21st of May is close to 19°C.

Even the 14-day outlook doesn’t suggest any temperatures above 18°C before the end of May. Let’s hope they’re being pessimistic again.

 

 

 

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 13, 2022: Forecast Friday

Soon, the ice-out date will be history, and not a matter for forecasts.

But while we still have a little ice left, here’s Sean’s last take on it for this year.

Remember, you can click on this graph to see it large and sharp.

Lake of the Woods Thaw Forecast.

This year’s temperature profile (the blue line) runs parallel to the best case example from 2007 (the red line). Since last week, Sean has updated the path of the blue line to replace forecast temperatures with actual ones up to the present.

His conclusion? Based on temperatures, the lake should be entirely ice-free in the evening of May 17th.

Temperatures are not the only factor in play, though, so there’s still some wiggle room for wind and high humidity to get rid of the ice even faster. Certainly it is very windy today. I think it’s possible that the ice might be gone a day or so earlier than the temperatures suggest.

In the meantime, although there is still ice present, many people will be able to reach their cottages by boat already. For those who cannot, yet, it is only a matter of days.

Satellite imagery is a bit of a tease lately, because of cloud. Yesterday, Terra satellite was able to see only the south west corner of the lake. Today, Aqua got a look at only the east side. In both cases, there was no significant ice visible, but we’re reaching the stage where it would be hard to spot from space.

Lake levels continue to rise. Water is flowing into Lake of the Woods faster than it can be let out. Sean calculates that the surplus amounts to an olympic-sized swimming pool’s worth of water every second and a half. That would raise the lake by an inch and a quarter every day. If that continued for a week, it would come to another fifteen inches, but nobody knows exactly how long the inflow will remain so high.

As mentioned on Ice Patrol yesterday, the water level of the Winnipeg River is so high that it’s raising the water level in and around the Black Sturgeon Lakes. That’s washed out a number of roads, and resulted in an evacuation order for a lot of people that live north of the Kenora Bypass. The evacuees will have a narrow window to get out. The City of Kenora Works Department is attempting to re-open one route with heavy equipment, and they think they can keep that road passable for four hours this afternoon. After that, the floodwaters will close off all the ways out.

You can read more–and see a map of the affected area–at Kenora Online.

 

 

 

May 12, 2022: It’s All Going

I wasn’t expecting pictures today because of the heavy rainfall warning. But the weather has been better than expected so far, and I received three great sets.

Before we start with the pictures, the comments form is overflowing with people reporting that various places are open, or opening fast.

Let’s back those assertions up with some evidence. First up, aerial photos from James Hendy at River Air. He’s another of my former colleagues from decades ago.

You can click on these pictures to see larger versions that reveal more detail.

James started at Poplar Bay.

Poplar Bay.

It’s partly open, but there’s ice at the south end. Let’s take a closer look.

Poplar Bay, Welcome Channel, Wolf Island, Hare Island.

Next, James cruised out to the Manitou. The first view looks roughly south.

 

The Manitou. Whisky Island at the right, Barrier Islands in the distance.

Still ice here, and the ice roads haven’t broken apart yet. The Manitou is one of the last places to let go, but once things reach this stage of soft ice, it’s very vulnerable to wind.

Looking more to the south west shows the western stretch of the Manitou.

West Manitou. Crow Rock Island at the upper centre.

Then back towards Kenora. The ability to reach Scotty Island is a key milestone in boat access.

 

Scotty Island in the distance.

I’ve heard from BB Camps that Town Island is accessible, and it looks like you can make it to Scotty Island now. More about the beach there, later.

Thanks, James!

Our second set of photos come from contributor Scott Benson.

Over Sugar Bay looking east down Clearwater Bay. It’s open water west of here. Frozen east and south.

Scotty’s beach in foreground looking east over Bigstone Bay.

That beach is looking pretty waterlogged. I like the little cluster of ice-road fragments, though.

Looking north over Shammis Island where the main ice road crosses. This area of the lake is 90+% ice at this point.

I’ve said it before, but the ice roads are the last things to let go. This broken one shows how close we are to total ice-out.

Over Ash Bay looking east at the grouping of islands including S Island and north up Corkscrew Channel. Open around S island and frozen to the east towards Whiskey island.

There’s still quite a lot of ice out there, but it’s almost all candled. Basically it’s just fancy ice cubes (well, hexagons, actually) floating around and keeping each other company.

Just west of Victoria Island looking north at Mud Portage, and Woodchuck/Deception bays in the distance. Woodchuck and Deception are ice free.

Over the entrance to Echo bay looking east down Ptarmigan Bay, Zig Zag island in the center. Ice free north of Zig Zag island.

Looking south east at Echo Bay. About 1/2 open water.

West Hawk Lake. This ice has been pushed around by the wind for the past 3 days and won’t last long.

I have had at least one report that West Hawk Lake is wide open. Consider that if an observer was standing on the far shore, they would not be able to see this ice remnant on the west side.

Looking south over Shoal Lake. Some areas open (maybe 5-10%) ice in the middle looks white, the strongest ice I spotted today.

Oh, good. I just had someone asking about Shoal Lake. Typically, Shoal Lake’s ice lasts a few days longer than it does on Lake of the Woods. There’s a pretty big pan there, but I don’t think it will last through the weekend.

Scott was kind enough to write captions for his pictures, saving me a lot of work. Thanks, Scott!

But wait, there’s more.

Here’s a picture  of the ice at Clearwater Bay from Brendon Thiessen that came in while I was writing this post.

This was taken at 2pm today (12/05/2022). Looking Northwest from Big Duck Island toward Sugar Bay.

Brendon was using a drone to check on his docks, (they’re fine) and sent me this to show the ice. Thanks, Brendon!

I’ll finish with a set of aerial photos from MAG Canada’s Justin Martin.

We’ll start with Northern Harbour, because I’ve been curious about it for a  couple of days.

Pine Portage Bay, Sultana Island and Bald Indian Bay.

There’s water around the docks now, but before you phone Northern Harbour, take note that there’s not actually a clear route out of Pine Portage Bay yet.

From Bare Point, Looking west towards Treaty Island.

It looks as if you could take a boat out through Devil’s Gap now. There’s still a lot of pan ice, though, so you’d want to be careful not to get trapped.

Middle Island and Scotty Island.

The same applies if you try to go beyond Scotty Island. Large pans of ice, moving around because of wind and current. South of the Barrier Islands, those sheets are massive. We’ll take a closer look in a minute.

But first, Corkscrew Island, Ptarmigan Bay and Clearwater Bay.

 

Corkscrew Island, looking west towards Zigzag Island.

Now the Barrier Islands, and the huge ice sheet south of them.

East Allie Island and Allie Island, looking over those Barrier Islands at the ice to the south.

Most years, that ice covered area is the last to go. Small pans of this may survive for several more days.

Thanks for these, Justin!

This last shot from Justin is a little different.

Judging by the Kenora Airport in the background, this is the Essex Road. As you can see, a lengthy stretch of it is underwater.

This is not the only road in the region to be flooded or washed out. The problem in this location is that the Winnipeg River is now higher than the Black Sturgeon Lakes, causing their water levels to rise.

It’s raining as I write this, and we have another heavy rainfall warning, so water levels in the whole drainage basin of Lake of the Woods are sure to continue rising.

As far as the ice is concerned, it’s melting everywhere, and it’s melting fast. It won’t be long now.

 

 

May 11, 2022: Turning Point

With half the ice gone, I stop showing where the water is expanding, and start looking at where the ice is shrinking.

Technical notes:

I have added a link to the Navionics online map of Lake of the Woods to the right-hand sidebar, next door to the Satellite links. If you don’t recognize some of the place names I use, this zoomable map is a great help. When I’m writing Ice Patrol posts, I keep it open on a separate tab in case I need to check something. This is way easier than unfolding and refolding my many marine charts.

Ice Patrol is having some of its heaviest traffic ever. Recently, it’s been averaging over 2000 visits a day. Notably, there is a higher than normal proportion of visitors from the USA. I think they’ve missed us. Come on up!

I received more pictures yesterday than I could process. Here are Josh Broten’s lovely pictures from the south side of the lake.

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

Looking SE over Buffalo Point. The ice is gone from Warroad to Buffalo and then narrows as you get to Rocky Point.

Over Buffalo Point looking NW. You can see Moose Lake is ice free.

Over Sand Point Bay looking SE. you can see of in the distance how the the lake is ice free from Rocky Point to Rainy River.

Looking NE over the NW Angle. Mostly open water from Oak Island and north.

Over Windigo Island looking NE. For the most part it is open water all the way past Tranquil Channel and Big Narrows.

Looking westward you can see Shoal Lake is still iced over.

Over Royal Island looking NE toward Kenora. Tranquil channel and Big Narrows are in the center of the picture.

Over Tranquil channel looking east over Sunset Channel.

Over Crescent Island looking north towards Kenora.

Over Yellow Girl Point looking Northerly towards Kenora. Lots of of Ice still between Kenora and the Alneau.

Another look to the west over sunset channel.

Looking east over Smith Island with Sioux Narrows in the distance. Lots of open water.

Josh is one of my favourite contributors. He edits his own pictures and even provides captions. Thanks, Josh!

Between Tom Hutton’s coverage of the east and north parts of the lake shown in yesterday’s post, and Josh Broten’s flight over the south and central parts, we’ve checked almost everything except the Ptarmigan and Clearwater Bays in the north west corner and Morson in the south east.

It looks as if we are now on track to have one of the fastest (and latest) thaws of this century. Once half the ice has melted, the remainder is floating loose at the mercy of the wind. With mid-May temperatures, it should be only a matter of days until it’s all gone. I looked back at 2014 to search for pictures showing an equivalent amount of ice cover at the same time of year, and I think we’re just five to seven days from total ice-out. A quick check of the MODIS archives from that similarly late spring suggests the same sort of timeline.

If this does become the fastest thaw in my records, there will be two main reasons. First, when the thaw starts late, it’s likely to run into warmer temperatures in late spring. So late starting thaws generally run faster than the ones that begin in March. Secondly, we’ve had an extraordinary amount of wet weather. A string of Colorado lows set records for precipitation in April and I think early May, too. And while you might be tempted to credit the rain for the rapid melt, meteorologists insist that it’s actually the high humidity that does the heavy lifting.

Signs of spring:

The floatplanes have been flocking in. River Air’s Caravan has been joined by a turbine Otter and a Beaver.

On a recent drive from the Kenora waterfront to Keewatin, I spotted another small plane near Q-104, meaning that I saw more  floatplanes in the water than boats. Most of the marinas had no boats at all at the docks, or just one or two. I expect that to change rapidly, as I have noticed a lot of boat trailers in the last few days, and the ice is letting go at many of the docks.

If you’re planning to put your boat in the water soon, don’t forget your safety equipment. Water traffic will be light at first, so if you have motor trouble you might have to wait a while for help. It is wise to take warm clothing with you.

Time for my annual reminder that when float planes are landing or taking off, they have the right of way over boats, because those stages of flight are critical. Safety Bay is a designated water aerodrome, so be alert there. Once a plane is on the water, it becomes a boat in the eyes of the law, and has the same right-of-way as other boat traffic. Having said that, floatplanes have no brakes and limited steering*, so I suggest giving them a wide berth.

*If you want to know how good a floatplane pilot is, you don’t watch them land. You watch them dock!

 

 

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: Forecast Friday

First off, I made mistakes with the previous post. Dated May 5, I forgot to hit the PUBLISH button until this morning. Secondly, the version that went out by email was incomplete. A drone panorama from Paul Leischow was omitted from the version I hastily put out, and the email version will not be updated to show the corrected version.

To see the full May 5 post, click here or visit the Ice Patrol home page and scroll down.

Now, on to the latest. Sean has been tracking how the weather we’re actually getting compares to the weather forecasts he bases his predictions on. You may recall that we put more trust in the seven day weather forecast than the fourteen day outlook.

This time around, that has worked out well. In the week since Sean released his first prediction, the weather was very close to what was forecast. The second week of that fourteen day outlook is now our coming week, and the new seven day forecast for it is more optimistic.

To be clear, the weather forecasts are updated all the time, and new seven and fourteen day forecasts come out every day. But because Sean does his graph on one particular day, the forecast line on the graph reflects the forecast available at that time.

Sean has revised his graph with the new information, and with more confidence.

Remember, you can click on this graph to see a larger version. You should zoom in on that to see it at it’s largest and sharpest.

If you want to refresh your memory, you can see the previous version by clicking here.

So, what’s different? The blue line is steeper. That’s good. It means that the weather forecast is better, and that means we’re likely to hit the target thaw index sooner. Sean is now saying it looks like the ice will be gone a day or two before the May long weekend, instead of just as it begins.

Graph Explanation:

The horizontal yellow line represents the thaw index we think we’ll need to reach to melt all the ice on the lake.

The blue line represents our thaw index this year, based on known temperatures so far, and forecast temperatures for the future.

The red line shows how fast the cumulative temperatures can rise in a very good year. It’s based on the fastest-warming spring in our records.

The green line represents a worst-case scenario based on the weakest, coolest spring we know of.

It’s worth noting that the revised graph now shows that our weather is tracking very close to the best-case scenario, roughly paralleling it. That would give us a thaw that’s very fast. That’s about right for one that happens this late in the year.

Now the fine print.

This graph and prediction is based solely on air temperatures and an assumed thickness of ice based on the winter’s severity. It does not take into account such factors as the strength of water currents, precipitation, humidity, the UV index, tornadoes, tsunamis, or comet impacts.

This graph may pose a choking hazard to pets and small children, especially on a smartphone. Wear sunblock if reading the graph outdoors. Do not attempt to use this graph while driving or operating heavy equipment. Follow regional and local safety regulations regarding eye protection and personal safety equipment. Always unplug the graph before putting your hands near the moving parts.

 

 

 

May 4, 2022: Startling Change

I had a chance to go flying today. Quinn Wilson, one of my former colleagues, was able to take me for a flight in one of MAG Canada’s Rockwell Aero Commander 500s.

We went for a tour of the northern half of the lake. I took quite a lot of pictures, and here’s a selection of the most informative.

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

Rat Portage Bay and Safety Bay.

The usual shot taken shortly after take-off. At the left edge, Rat Portage Bay is showing an increased amount of open water; it approaches Gun Club Island now.

We flew west to check out Clearwater Bay.

Clearwater Bay and Deception Bay.

Most of Clearwater and Ptarmigan are still frozen over.

Deception Bay.

But there is some open water around the marina in Deception Bay.

Ash Rapids.

I wanted a closer look at Ash Rapids to see if there was more open water than yesterday. I think yes, a little.

Southwest end of Big Narrows.

Big Narrows is practically wide open now. Of course, the routes to it are still frozen.

Wiley Point.

From Big Narrows, the open water has spread as far as Wiley Point.

From there, we cruised over to look at the Barrier Islands.

Crow Rock Pass.

Spotted some open water at Crow Rock Pass, and there’s a tiny bit near Twelve Mile Portage, too.

The Elbow.

Developments around the Elbow look more dramatic. I’m sure there’s more open water here than in Justin’s pictures from just thirty hours earlier.

Queer Island and French Narrows.

And where we saw weakening ice yesterday, there are growing patches of open water around Queer Island.

Next, over to Bigstone Bay.

Eagle Pass.

There’s still just a very small patch of water at Eagle Pass.

Scotty Island, Nanton Island, Town Island.

I’m keeping a close eye on the waters approaching Scotty Island, as this is an area of dynamic change. I think there’s a visible difference since yesterday.

Lastly, a look at Devil’s gap from the Rogers Island side.

Rogers Island and Devil’s Gap.

Ice in this area always holds out longer than you’d expect. In fact, this very spot was the reason Ice Patrol started in the first place,  But there is noticeable change here, too, as the water opens up towards Galt Island.

I hope to go flying with Quinn again in a few days. Thanks, Quinn!

In summary, there was a surprising amount of change in one day. Patches of rotten ice opened up dramatically, and most areas with open water saw at least a little expansion.

The latest MODIS image bears that out.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Aqua satellite, May 4, 2022, in false colour.

Here’s the matching shot from yesterday.

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

Black patches of open water seem larger in today’s image. Although the lake is still about 95% ice-covered, whole swaths of that ice have turned darker, indicating that it is thinning or weakening.

The weather: tomorrow we might see above normal temperatures for the first time in weeks. The Weather Network says a high of 16°C, slightly above seasonal norms of around 15. Environment Canada thinks we might make it to 18°C. Friday’s supposed to be similar, but the weather will be a few degrees cooler on the weekend, and rain is expected to start on Saturday night and last a few days. I was recently reminded by retired meteorologist Louis Legal, that it’s not the actual rain that destroys ice. It’s the high humidity that comes with the rain, and the energy transferred when water vapour condenses onto snow or ice. So I expect rapid change for the next few days. We could be approaching a turning point.

The Lake of the Woods Control Board has announced that the Norman Dam will soon be going wide open. You can read the full announcement at the preceding link, but the gist of it is that there was record precipitation in April, so the lake has been rising fast and will continue to do so. The lake is already at 95th percentile levels, and it is predicted to reach the highest allowable levels by mid-May. Even at maximum flow, the dam cannot drain the lake as fast as it is filling up, so the dam will be opening all the way on May 7, in an attempt to get a head start.

Signs of spring: Loons are back. I thought I spotted some yesterday, but today I was able to confirm it with Derek, an experienced birder who has seen and heard them clearly. Oh, I guess that’s another sign of spring: the birders must be getting more active, because I met two today. On a more urban level, the street-sweepers are out. This also sparks joy, but in a less poetic way.