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 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.

March 14, 2021: Josh Broten

Alright! We have our first aerial photographs. These are from regular contributor Josh Broten, who flies a Cub. He took them yesterday.

You can click on these pictures to see them full screen, and click on them again to zoom in to their full resolution.

Looking North, with Keewatin Channel in the center of the picture.

Josh’s pictures show a lot of solid ice, and very little open water. In this first shot, you can see scraps of water in Keewatin Channel, near the center of the frame. Kenora is towards the upper right corner, and the distinctive crescent-shaped beach at Scotty Island just makes it into the picture at the lower right edge.

The Barrier Islands

Still looking north, but showing the part of the lake south of the Barrier Islands: they stretch across the frame of this picture, just above the center line. Notably, there’s not really any water to be seen in either French Narrows or at The Elbow. Strong currents forced through each of the gaps in the Barrier Island Chain wear out the ice in these spots early in the season. Gull Island and Brittania Island are in the foreground.

Shoal Lake in the distance, Monument Bay and Cochrane Island in the foreground.

Here’s Josh’s view of Shoal Lake. The ice does look more bare at the south end of Shoal, but it’s a subtle distinction.

Big Narrows

Here’s a look at the tiny patches of open water in Big Narrows. You’ll probably have to click and zoom to really see them. The foreground of this picture is dominated by Bishop Point Island, with Bishop Point at the left. Turtle Bay is close to the middle of the picture.

Big Narrows shown from further south, with Flag Island in the foreground.

Somewhere in this shot should be the marshy area where a gravel truck was reported to have broken through the ice in shallow water a week or two ago.

North side of the Alneau Peninsula, looking west over Chisholm Island.

Josh climbs to 10,000 feet (in a Cub, this takes some time!) to get these comprehensive photos. As you can see, Lake of the Woods is still more than 99% frozen over. That’s about what you’d expect in the first half of March. But it’s worth mentioning that I’m hearing—via email and through the comments form—that the ice is not thick this year. People have mentioned ice thicknesses of sixteen to twenty inches. That’s not a lot. March, after all, is usually when the ice reaches it’s peak thickness before the thaw begins. It’s not uncommon for 36″ augers to bottom out in ice that’s about forty inches thick. In round numbers, that’s a meter.

April 20, 2020: Bruce White

This picture is a couple of days old. Bruce White, from Air Canada, took it on the 18th. We had some trouble getting the picture to me yesterday, but we got it sorted out today. In any case, it’s barely been above freezing since it was taken, so the date doesn’t matter much.

You can click on this picture to see a full-screen version that can be zoomed to full resolution.

This image looks north from the south end of Lake of the Woods. Big Island is in the foreground, and the large landmass in the centre is the Alneau Peninsula. Big Narrows is behind the closer hinge fairing. (the tapered shape sticking out behind the wing) In the middle of the more northerly expanse of ice, you can see the Barrier Islands, and beyond that is Kenora and Upper and Lower Black Sturgeon Lakes.

Anyway, it’s almost all ice. On the bright side, the snow cover is mostly gone, so if we could just get some normal temperatures for a day or two…

Thanks, Bruce!