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.

 

 

April 12, 2022: Aerial Overview

Josh Broten took his new plane up to 9500 feet yesterday and photographed several areas on Lake of the Woods that have patches of open water. I think he got just about all of them.

If you click on these pictures, you’ll see a larger, full-screen version, and you can zoom in to see it at the full resolution. That makes it a lot easier to distinguish between open water and cloud shadows.

First, Flag Island, near the Northwest Angle.

Flag Island is in the center. Some open water around Flag and in between Windfall and Falcon.

Just a little further north, the Tug Channel runs up the east side of Falcon Island.

Looking NW over Tug Channel. Some open water through Johnston Passage.

Falcon Island is probably the third-largest island on LotW. The Johnston Passage is along it’s north shore.

Then towards Big Narrows.

Looking SW over Big Narrows….lots of open water.

Big Narrows always has open water early on. I don’t know if it ever freezes entirely.

I asked Josh if he could get a picture of the Sioux Narrows area, because satellites are showing a patch of water there, and some weaker or wetter ice in that area.

Looking ESE over Yellow Girl Bay and Long Bay.

This is the same spot of water that shows on the satellite images, but the rest of the ice looks about the same as everywhere else.

Over to the see the Barrier Islands now, with Kenora in the distance.

Looking north towards Kenora. Open water between Mather and Allie Island.

As usual, there’s a bit of water in The Elbow, where the current pushes through between the Barrier Islands. Further back, Scotty Island, Middle Island and Hay Island are all ice-locked.

Last, Sioux Narrows.

Looking ESE over Sioux Narrows. Some open water.

In the foreground, you can see tiny patches of water by Fire Island, just west of Sioux Narrows. Further back, there’s water under the bridge, too.

A special thanks to Josh for covering all the hot spots. As you can see, the ice is almost unbroken over the vast majority of the lake, with just those parts with strong currents showing open water. This is normal when our temperatures are mostly below freezing, and so far we haven’t been able to enjoy more than a few days of mild temperatures (or even seasonal average ones).

That brings us to the weather. By now, you will have heard that we have a big winter storm coming. It’s been working it’s way across the American mid-west, and it’ll be our turn starting tomorrow. It’ll be a lot colder than average, and we probably won’t see any above-freezing temperatures from Wednesday right through to Easter Sunday or Monday. Expect blizzard conditions starting Wednesday and lasting all through Thursday, before tapering off on the morning of Good Friday. It wouldn’t surprise me if there were a number of power outages, so be prepared to hunker down.

Naturally, none of this bodes well for the spring thaw. Overnight lows are expected to drop to around -10°C for a couple of days, which is bad enough, but the  fresh snow will have a lasting effect because it will add a layer of reflective insulation that will prevent the sun’s warmth from reaching the lake ice.

In short, winter isn’t done with us yet.

 

April 22, 2021: Even Less Ice

This morning’s satellite shot is a little blurry, but you can still make out some ice on Shoal Lake.

Click on this to see a version with landmarks tagged.

Terra satellite’s MODIS image for April 22, 2021, in false colour.

Justin Martin sent me another batch of aerial photos today.

You can click on these to see a larger version with more detail.

Scotty Island.

This is Scotty Island as seen from the Manitou, looking north east towards town. Minor patches of ice at the lower left, by Slate Island, and at the right side by Strawberry Island.

Cat Island. Strawberry Island.

The view west from over Middle Island, which is partially visible at the bottom of the frame. The double patch of ice by Strawberry Island is the same one as in the previous photo, but with better lighting.

Next we’ll take a closer look at those ice pans in the distance.

The Manitou.

Further westward, this is the view down the Manitou, with the Slate Islands* in the middle and Whiskey Island to their right. At the bottom of the frame is the south west tip of Scotty. Still isolated patches of ice here, too.

*Slate Island (singular) is near Scotty Island. The Slate Islands (plural, a chain) are just slightly further west in the middle of the Manitou.

There are also two Galt Islands. One is near Devil’s Gap on Lake of the Woods, and the other is on Shoal Lake, near Martinique Island, which is quite separate from the similarly named island in the Caribbean.

Thompson Island, Poplar Bay, The Tangle.

Looking north, with Keewatin visible in the distance if you zoom in. That patch by Hough’s Island is about as weak as a sheet of ice can get and still hold together.

Quarry Island, Queen Bee Island, Sultana Island.

Here we’re looking east into Bald Indian Bay at the left, and Pine Portage Bay at the right. That’s Heaps Point at the bottom of the picture. A lonely and desperate pan of ice clings to Kipling Island. It’s doomed.

Now down to the Barrier Islands.

The Elbow.

Looking south over the Elbow, so we have Allie Island at the left and Shammis Island at the right. Oliver Island is just left of center. It looks like most of the pans in this area have shrunk, but survived another day.

We’ve done better than expected today, reaching 16°C this afternoon.  Let’s hope we can beat the odds tomorrow, too, because there’s talk of snow during the day and an overnight low of -5° Friday night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 22, 2021: Scattered Pans

There’s still a little ice, but it won’t impede boaters much.

I’ll start with a satellite image from yesterday morning.

If you click on this image, you’ll see landmarks tagged.

Terra satellite’s MODIS image for April 21, 2021, in false colour.

It looks as if the south end of the lake is completely clear now, but there’s still significant ice on Shoal Lake, and some small patches around the Manitou and the Barrier Islands.

Now fast forward to yesterday evening, when Justin Martin snapped a few shots at sunset.

You can click on these pictures to see a full-size version.

Downtown Kenora, Devil’s Gap.

The area around Kenora is clear. Even Gun Club Island, at the right edge of the frame, and Rogers Island, near the center, which are late to thaw because of ice roads, are open.

The Manitou.

Out on the Manitou, only scattered pans remain. This shot looks south east from over Welcome Channel, with Thompson Island and Wolf Island in the foreground. Whiskey Island is at the right edge, and Scotty Island is at the left. Right in the middle of the picture, glowing in the sunlight, is Manitou Island. As you can see, there are some ice pans out there, but it looks as if you could simply go around them if they were in your way.

The Barrier Islands.

Meanwhile, the ice by the Barrier Islands is also disintegrating. This shot looks south east with Shammis Island in the center and Mather Island to the left. Beyond that are Allie Island and the Elbow. There are patches of ice both north (lower left corner) and south (right of center) of Shammis, but they don’t amount to much.

 

Shoal Lake.

Here, we’re looking south west down Shoal Lake with Helldiver Bay in the foreground, and Martinique and Galt Islands near the middle of the shot. There’s still some pretty extensive ice on Shoal, and it’s common for Shoal Lake to clear a few days later than Lake of the Woods.

Today’s forecast is for sunny skies, south breezes, and a high of about 13°C. I think that’ll just about finish off the ice on Lake of the Woods. I kind of hope so, because tonight the temperatures are expected to drop to about 1°C, and then stay there all day Friday. With snow, probably.

I’m going to put my patio furniture out on the deck today, but I’ll be bringing the cushions in this evening.

April 20, 2021: Ice Pans

Despite some cold days, the ice is breaking up.

A couple of satellite pictures to show the progress.

This is from Saturday:

April 17, 2021.

And this is from Monday:

April 19, 2021.

Even from space, you can see that the ice sheets are breaking apart.

Let’s take a closer look, from one of the MAG Canada Cessna 337 training flights yesterday. Pictures courtesy of Justin Martin.

You can click on these to see a full-size version.

The Manitou.

Looking west down the Manitou. Scotty Island is at the lower left, by the aircraft’s nose. The largest sheet of ice here is between Scotty and Whiskey Island. Right in the middle of the ice, Lemon Island and Manitou Island have clear patches to their south, like shadows. I think that’s from the ice being driven by a north wind.

Bigstone Bay.

The mouth of Bigstone Bay has been blocked until recently. Below the Cessna’s wingtip, you can find Heenan Point stretching out towards Needle Point near the middle of the picture. The two points were acting as kind of a choke point for the ice sheet, but it has cleared. At the right side are the Hades, and the ice pan in the foreground is just off Middle Island’s Heaps Point. The ice road is cracking up like a giant bar code.

Let’s take a look at things south of the Barrier Islands.

Whiteout Island.

Looking north towards the Barrier Islands. My chart doesn’t give a name to the chain of three islands in the middle of this picture, but the one to the right of them is Whiteout Island. As we saw in the satellite images, the big sheet of ice is fragmenting.

Barrier Islands: Allie and East Allie Islands.

Justin’s next shot takes us just a little further north to better see the Barrier Islands. Allie Island and East Allie Island stretch across the middle of the frame here, with the Devil’s Elbow left of center.

Big Narrows Island.

This is about as far down the lake as Justin got. We’re looking west over Big Narrows Island towards a sunlit sheet of ice on Shoal Lake in the distance.

Justin has more flights this week, so I hope we can all see the last ice go. Thanks Justin!

 

April 11, 2021: New Aerials

Kelly Belair and his kids have contributed aerial photos starting last year. Here’s what he sent me today.

We’ll start with the ones taken yesterday, Saturday April 10.

You can click on these pictures to see the full-size version.

The Elbow.

Kelly flies a Maule, and the photographer on this flight was his daughter, Taylor Belair. So this shot looks south at the Elbow, which is the gap in the Barrier Islands between Allie Island, on the left, and Mather Island on the right.

French Narrows.

Here’s another passage through the Barrier Islands: French Narrows lies between East Allie Island (the twin points at the left of the photo) and the mainland of the Eastern Peninsula. This shot looks north, with Andrew Bay in the corner to the right of the wing strut.

Poplar Bay, Holmstrom’s Marsh, The Tangle.

North east over Poplar Bay, with The Tangle near the center of the shot and Holmstrom’s Marsh at the right edge. Kenora is near the upper left corner.

Then this lovely shot.

Water bomber near Cross Island.

It’s not very often I have to figure out the location of someone’s photo that doesn’t have even one whole island in it, but we’re looking roughly north west, and that’s Cross Island with Turnbull Island in the background. (I don’t actually know all 14,000 islands; Kelly gave me a hint, he said it was near Keewatin.)

Lower Black Sturgeon. 

Looking north or north west at Lower Black Sturgeon, with Black Sturgeon Narrows out of frame at the right edge.

For fun, Kelly also sent me this picture he took on April 5 of last year.

Holmstrom’s Marsh, Welcome Channel.

Haha, you say: look at all the ice.

Well, it’s probably going to snow tonight. Plus other lovely forms of precipitation like drizzle and freezing drizzle. Because I put the summer tires on ten days ago. Luckily, I’m not travelling much.

Even with that, we’re still doing much better than most years. We’ve only fallen behind if you compare this spring to the exceptionally early ones.

Signs of spring: I saw a pair of Mallards today. Also Caroline found a tick on our dog, Ebony*. Yay.

*Ebony is new. Our (mostly) Husky, Piper, succumbed to complications of Lyme Disease earlier this spring. She was only six. It was lonely without a dog in the house, so we have adopted two-year-old Ebony from A Dog’s Life.

March 23, 2021: Aerial Sweep

Tom Hutton and Justin Martin were out training in one of the Aero-Commanders yesterday, so they were able to circle around a bit and Tom got shots of a lot of the area around Kenora.

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

The Highways Yard on the Kenora Bypass.

Looking south west over the headwaters of the Winnipeg River. Palmerston Channel is barely visible as a dark line beyond the bridge, while Darlington Bay is easier to see beyond that.

City Works Yard, Kenora Bay.

From over Barsky’s Hill, this shot looks south. The Lake of the Woods District Hospital campus is dead center, and Coney Island stretches almost the full width of the picture.

Norman Bay, Safety Bay.

Looking south west over Norman Bay at the west end of Coney Island, with Cameron Island and Mackies Island more distant on the right.

Gun Club Island, Rat Portage Bay.

West down Rat Portage Bay, showing all the ice roads around Gun Club Island. Caragana Island and Dingwall Island are in the left foreground.

Treaty Island, Shragges Island.

South west from over Treaty Island, with a chunk of Rogers Island in the lower left corner. Shragges Island is the large oval one in the center of the frame, and beyond that, Channel Island and the Tangle.

Town Island.

Looking south over Town Island at Copeland Island and Scotty Island.

Bare Point, Lunnys Island.

This gives us a view south east down Bigstone Bay. Far beyond Lunny’s Island, you can see Heenan’s Point reaching out towards Needle Point on Hay Island.

The Barrier Islands.

Lastly, a look at the western half of the Barrier Islands chain. Allie Island is behind the windshield wiper, Mather Island and Shammis Island recede into the distance at the right of center.

When you look at this collection of photographs, you’d be quite justified to say, “But there’s ice everywhere! How can you say it’s all going to melt soon?” There are a couple of reasons why this is so.

First, Tom asked me what I would like pictures of, but I didn’t reply to his text until he was mostly done, so he just photographed everything. For the record, my answer was “Water.” At this time of year, I like to focus on those critical zones where the water is expanding, and dismiss the overall ice cover by saying “… and everything else is still frozen.” So Tom’s coverage is actually more impartial. This is what the lake really looks like.

Second, the lake doesn’t melt evenly. The thaw starts out gradually, with only a few key surface areas showing much change on a daily basis. But in the meantime, the ice is thinning and weakening: the signs are subtle, but the process is inexorable. By the time a quarter of the lake is open water, the end is just days away. Once the melt has gone that far, the tipping point has been reached, and the wind and current quickly tear the ice to shreds.

Or to put it another way, I like to start my observations when Spring just has her foot in the door. Because eager Summer is crowding her from behind, and is going to slam that door wide open.

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.

April 22, 2019: Change

Today I got a chance to see how the warm weekend affected the lake ice.

Lets start downtown, looking west at Rat Portage Bay.

Rat Portage Bay is in the middle of the picture, and at last the open water is pushing in from Devil’s Gap. Gun Club Island is still surrounded by ice, but it looks much blotchier than last week. Safety Bay, at the right, is almost entirely open now. There was still some candled ice when I drove along the waterfront earlier this morning, so I think things are changing rapidly there.

Click on any of these pictures to see a full-screen, zoomable version.

Aiming the camera a little to the left, I was able to include Town Island in the view.

Treaty Island has shifted from the left side of the picture to the right, so if you start with Rogers Island near the middle, you can work left to look at Galt Island and Town Island. Click to zoom in, and you can see that the water around Town Island is expanding towards Scotty Island, at the left by the windshield wiper arm.

Now, my first look at the Ptarmigan Bay area.

The Northern Peninsula dominates this picture, with White Partridge Bay in the foreground, near the dashboard. Follow that up the right side of the frame to look at Clearwater Bay. Ptarmigan Bay is on the left, with Fox Island just above the aircraft’s nose. I don’t see any water in this area yet, but the ice is darkening.

We turned left, to look eastward over the Manitou.

Whisky Island is at the bottom, left of center. Further back and close to the left edge is Scotty Island, with Middle Island and Hay Island behind it. Over on the right is The Elbow, with the open water between Mather Island and Allie Island spreading towards Queer Island.

Here’s the same area, but looking north east.

The Barrier Islands, with Shammis Island at the left, by the propeller blade, then Mathis Island, The Elbow, Allie Island and East Allie Island. In the back row, beyond Andrew Bay: Scotty Island, Middle Island, The Hades, and Hay Island.

Last, a check on Big Narrows. Looking south west.

Wiley Bay reaches to the right edge, and Wiley Point is close to the middle of the frame, with Big Narrows behind it. Zoom in to see Tranquil Channel and French Portage Narrows. Part of Queen Island is at the lower left corner.

Summary: four or five days of warm weather have enabled areas with current to open significantly. Places with less current, such as Ptarmigan, Clearwater and Bigstone, have seen less dramatic progress, but the ice is darkening all over.

We’re still doing better than last year, but this is the week when things started to warm up in 2018, bringing late but rapid change. Can we match that pace this year?

Multiple forecasts (The Weather Network, Accuweather, Environment Canada, and even the Weather Underground) all agree that we’ll have a few more days of warmth, and then, as we get to the weekend, it will cool off. Opinion is divided on how cool and how long it will last. Some overnight lows a little below freezing seem likely, while a stretch of single-digit daytime highs may last for a few days, or several.

If the more pessimistic forecasts turn out to be right, we could still come close to a thaw as late as last year. (Totally ice-free on May 14th). If we we don’t get too cool for too long, and benefit from some rain, we could continue to make good progress.

 

 

April 9, 2019: Cold

The weather here in Kenora was good enough to go flying yesterday, but weather in the places we wanted to go was bad, with fog and freezing drizzle. Even if we had taken off, the cloud was too low for taking photographs.

Today we woke up to cold weather and little snow flurries. As I write this, in the late afternoon, the temperature has not risen above -4ºC. Worse, although we will see thawing daytime temperatures in the coming days, overnight lows are expected to remain cold for the rest of the week.

I heard from my friend Sean, who graphs the mean daily temperatures with an eye to making informed predictions, and he’s not sure we’ve reached the inflection point yet. That’s the date when our mean daily temperature rises above freezing on a lasting basis. It was looking like we might have managed this a few days ago, but if we have a run of cold days, the lasting part won’t hold up and we’ll have to wait a little longer.

Now, on to some fresh pictures. These are not in the order I took them, but we can start with the Norman to Keewatin waterfront.This is looking south over the lake, with Keewatin’s iconic bridge at the right in the middle distance. Remember, you can click on any of these images to see them full-screen, and click on that larger picture to see them at maximum resolution. What you might want to zoom in on here is the water beyond the bridge, where the weekend rain has weakened the ice between Safety Bay and Keewatin Channel.

The water in the foreground is Palmerston Channel, I believe. Darlington bay is almost hidden because the clouds kept us rather low today, obliging us to take pictures at a low angle.

Let’s look at the Winnipeg River next.This picture is centred on Laurenson’s Island, and looks roughly west with Locke Bay stretching away off to the left. There’s lots of open water in the main channel, but last nights sprinkling of snow has covered the ice in the quieter bays, making it hard to assess the quality of ice there.

Further north, this is what things look like at the Little Dalles.This picture looks north. Way off on the horizon, you can see Big Sand lake.

To finish, a couple of shots from further south on the lake. First, the Barrier Islands.A snow flurry blurred this picture, but this is the state of the open water around The Elbow. We’re facing west. Allie Island is on the left of centre*, Mather Island to the right. Bald Island is at the bottom left, and part of Queer Island is at the lower right corner. Most of the dark patches here are just cloud shadows, but the two bluer ones are water.

*I’ve set my spell-checker to Canadian English.

This last picture is of Whitefish Narrows.Yellow Girl Bay dominates the foreground, Long Bay spans the middle, and beyond that you can see a little water at Whitefish Narrows slightly to the right of centre. Again, a layer of fresh snow makes it hard to judge the ice.

As for the fourteen day forecast, it looks as if we have at least another few days of disappointing temperatures. A normal high this time of year is about 9ºC (and rising steadily), but I see nothing warmer than 7ºC coming our way in the next two weeks.  Overnight lows could run at or slightly above normal, but the daytime highs don’t look encouraging.

I’m not scheduled to fly tomorrow, so I might take a look at my archived pictures from previous years to see how this spring compares to better and worse thaws.