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 18, 2019: Progress

We’ve finally had some warm weather: temperatures have moved into double digits, with a forecast of more to come, offering hope of a string of days with above normal highs. It’s starting to make a difference.

I had an afternoon trip today that gave me the opportunity to take pictures both when I departed and when I returned. I’ve picked the best two of each.

Click on any of these pictures to see a larger, zoomable version.

I haven’t made it out to the Barrier Islands lately, so that was on my wish list.Looking south with the Big Traverse on the horizon. That blocky looking “island” at the left is actually the western end of the Eastern Peninsula. From there, track west across the picture to see East Allie Island, Allie Island, then the open water at The Elbow, then Mather Island and Shammis Island. I’m pretty sure that water at the Elbow is more extensive than last time I looked.

We carried on south for a minute longer to get a better look at Big Narrows and we got a bonus: two new patches of water! At the left side of this picture there’s water between Shammis Island and Crow Rock Island now.  Closer to the middle of the picture the current is opening things up in Crow Rock Channel, too. Further off to the south west, water continues to expand at Big Narrows.

Those were the highlights of the outbound leg of my trip.

On the way home, I was able to swing out towards Scotty Island to check on developments there. We’re looking more or less east now. At the left is The Tangle, where water’s been opening up the path into Keewatin Channel. The ice road through Holmstrom’s Marsh is clearly visible to the left of Thomson Island. There’s new water showing at the centre of the picture near Anchor Island. Scotty Island is just right of that.

I glimpsed something behind Scotty Island that made me want a better look.Scotty Island’s distinctive crescent-shaped beach is near the left edge of the frame, and yes, in the middle of this picture there’s water between Strawberry Island and Middle Island now. There’s also a tiny bit between Strawberry and Scotty. And if you zoom in to look at things further away, there’s water appearing between Middle Island and Hay Island now, in The Hades.

In summary, warmer weather has enabled water to break through in multiple areas. I also think the ice is starting to look greyer overall, although it’s hard to compare pictures taken at different times of day with different amounts of sunlight.

The weather forecast is looking more promising lately. A week or so ago, we were facing a gloomy outlook that suggested below normal temperatures would persist into May, but now the latest forecasts are calling for double-digit temperatures for the Easter Weekend and through next week. We might even manage a thundershower this Saturday. Rain would be good.

Over the weekend, I’ll probably dig through the archives to see how our recent progress looks in comparison to past years, but I won’t be flying again until Monday. If you’re interested, I’ll be talking to Ken O’Neil at Q-104 on Monday morning.

Have a happy Easter weekend. Safe travels.

 

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.

 

 

 

May 14, 2018: All Clear

I went flying today, and saw no ice on Lake of the Woods. You can click on this picture to view a larger version and zoom in to see for yourself.

In this photo, the nose of the King Air is aimed at Middle Island, with Hay Island to the left, Scotty Island just right of center, and Whiskey Island at the extreme right. The full span of the Barrier Islands is visible in the middle distance, and there’s no sign of the ice that was holding out in that area.

Yesterday’s satellite images were blurred, but some ice was visible. Today’s had some cloud cover, but by comparing two images, I was able to see pretty much the whole lake, and there was no visible ice, so I think even the ice down by Baudette is gone.

So I’m calling it. As of today, Lake of the Woods is ice free. The brick graph gets a magenta block for 2018 to celebrate.

This spring was one of the four latest springs of the sixteen on the graph; behind the curve, but not outrageously so.

To show the timing of the onset and conclusion of the thaw, here’s the finalized version of the floating bar graph. Each year’s bar starts on the Inflection Date (when the daily mean temperature rose above freezing) and ends on the date when the lake was ice free.

Depending on your monitor size and settings, you might want to zoom in on this to read the numbers. In summary, it shows that compared to other recent years, the 2018 thaw got off to a late start and then went fairly fast.

A quick note on other lakes in the region: all lakes in the Kenora, Red Lake, Sioux Lookout and Dryden area are clear of ice, with three exceptions:

  1. Shoal Lake, west of Kenora, still has a large patch of ice.
  2. Trout Lake, east of Red Lake, still has extensive ice.
  3. Lac Seoul, near Sioux Lookout, still has some ice near Kejick Bay.

I’ll be wrapping up the Ice Patrol for the season in the next few days. Thanks to everyone who visited this year- I had record traffic!

Special thanks to all who contributed with photos, comments or emails.

I couldn’t have done it without the help of my co-workers at MAG Canada.

 

May 12, 2018: Satellite Saturday

Ice on Lake of the Woods continues to melt away.

Devon Ostir took this picture of the last scraps of ice on the Manitou yesterday, near Wolf Island and Hare Island.

This morning he reports it is all gone.

Satellite imagery confirms that ice is vanishing. Here’s Saturday’s picture from the Aqua’s MODIS camera in true colour.

Shoal Lake has significant ice, but on Lake of the Woods, the patch south of the Barrier Islands is fading fast. The sheet of ice at the south end, near Baudette, is both bigger and whiter, but it looks very fractured, and wave action in that huge expanse of open water will probably make short work of it.

Here’s the false-colour version of the same image.

The ice actually shows less clearly in the artificially filtered scheme. Ice in the last stages of melting (see an old post about candling here) always looks the same as water in the false-colour images.

The weekend should stay sunny, breezy and warm, with temperatures at or above normal. If the remaining ice on Lake of the Woods lasts through Sunday, I expect it will vanish on Monday. I’ve already got my year-end graphs ready to go.  Shoal Lake might take a day or two longer.

 

May 11, 2018: Remnants Persist

Yesterday I said the weak ice between Scotty Island and Whiskey Island would be gone overnight. Wrong! Garry Hawryluk passed overhead on a WestJet flight at 6:00 this morning, and managed a few pictures at dawn. The light was poor, so I’ve enhanced the contrast on this one to make the ice more visible.

What I like about this photo is it shows the full span of that ice sheet south of the Barrier Islands. But if you look just above the big expanse of ice, you can see that the small patch in the Manitou survived the night. It did dip below freezing last night, but I think a bigger factor was that the wind died out: without wave action, the candled ice did not break up or blow away.

My own nefarious plan was to hold off on taking pictures until this afternoon, so I could say, “it was gone when I looked.” Unfortunately, it was still hanging on at 3:00pm.

This picture is centered on Town Island. Click on it to see a larger image, and click on that to zoom in, and you can see that small pans of ice still persist on the Manitou.

At full magnification, you can also see a boat passing by Lunny’s Island. The water is so smooth you can trace the wake all the way back to the Hades!

This picture shifts over to the left to show more of Bigstone Bay and Hay Island. Zoom in on this one and you can see a tiny forlorn patch of ice clinging to Needle Point, just left of the center of the picture. But the real reason I took this photo is I wanted to show the larger sheet of ice in the distance. The top right corner of the picture shows the area south of East Allie Island, and that big expanse of ice there is still, well, big. It looks set to hold on a bit longer.

Now that the thaw is almost complete, Sean and I are looking forward to finishing up our graphs for 2018.

Here’s Sean’s latest version of the prediction graph.

We reached a Thaw Index of 200 today, which Sean guessed (several weeks ago!) would be enough accumulated heat to melt all our ice. It turned out to be a very good guess, especially for a first attempt. Sean used temperature data from past years to work out a relationship between how cold a winter was and how much warmth it takes to melt the ice. That didn’t give him a magic number, it gave him a range. He still had to choose whether this year’s thaw would be rapid or sluggish. He went with a swiftish prediction, and chose a thaw index of 200 as his best guess. (A thaw index of 200 means that starting on the day the temperature averages above freezing, we add each day’s mean temperature to a total. When it adds up to 200, we hoped to be ice free.) Because it was late in the season, I also felt that the thaw would be fairly rapid, but it looks as if the ice won’t be 100% gone until we climb a bit higher than 200.

Remember, my method in previous years was to take aerial photographs and compare them to my archived pictures, and look for the ice to melt at roughly the same pace as those previous years. In other words, I didn’t even try to factor in the forecast, unless it called for a significant run of good or bad weather.

The trick with using long-term weather forecasts to graph mean temperatures in advance is: they’re forecasts, and they go wrong. This April, forecasts were calling for miserable weather. And they were right, at first. Then as May arrived, we started to get much warmer weather than predicted. Changes to the weather forecast meant changes to the ice-out date, but not to the desired index.

I won’t be flying again until Monday. Will I find any ice at all by then? We’re looking at a warm weekend. I’m guessing not.

May 10, 2018: Remnants

Terra Satellite captured a clean image of Lake of the Woods today. Here’s how it looks in True Colour.

You can see there are three main patches of ice remaining. The bright one at the left is Shoal Lake, and the fainter one to the right of it is the area south of the Barrier Islands. The patchy one near the bottom is by Baudette.

Side note: Kenora shows very clearly on this picture as a beige blotch at the upper right. Look closely, and you can just make out three tiny dark blobs in the brightest part. Those are Rabbit Lake, Round Lake and Laurenson’s Lake!

Here’s the same image in false colour. Now that you know where to look, you should be able to spot our suburban lakes again.

The same three patches of ice are visible, but the differences in ice strength more clear.

Sometimes, very thin ice is indistinguishable from space. So I went flying and took a look from the air.

Click on any of the pictures below to see a larger version that you can zoom in on.

Middle Island and the Hades are in front of the aircraft’s nose. Scotty Island is in the center of the frame, and the patch of ice extending from Scotty to Whiskey Island is not visible from space. It is very weak, and will be gone tonight.

The larger sheet of ice is the one south of the Barrier Islands. It’s in poor shape, but it’s pretty big. We circled around it for a closer look.

This picture looks north, with Cliff Island in the foreground, and Bath Island dead center. The Barrier Islands are at the far edge of the ice, and the little patch by Scotty can be seen beyond them. Kenora is just visible as some pale specks in the far-off haze. You can’t see all of this icy area in this picture; smaller sheets of ice extend in both directions, but they’re weak and won’t last.

Our training flight took us over by Sioux Narrows. Click on the image to zoom in and see the iconic bridge in the foreground. Beyond it is Whitefish Bay, which has a reputation for thick ice, but it’s no straggler this year: it’s all open. The black and grey blur is just a propeller blade photo-bombing the picture.

This picture looks west, so in the top right corner, you can see the ice we circled around before, and far off on the horizon, the white line is the ice on Shoal Lake.

We didn’t go far south, so I didn’t get a good picture of the ice down on Big Traverse, but here’s a hazy one just to show that it’s real.

It’s not very warm today, but it is sunny and windy, so all this ice is going to have a hard time. The small patch by Scotty Island should be gone by dawn. The bigger area south of the Barrier Islands might last a day or two. I’m not sure about big sheet down on Big Traverse. It looks weak, and it’s very exposed to wind down there. It could also go in a day or two. The ice on Shoal Lake looks stronger. It might last three days or so.

Sean C. will update his graph tomorrow because he’s been saying for some time that May 11 would be the day we’ll hit a thaw index of 200, enough heat to melt all the ice we made last winter. I’ll recap his method tomorrow; it worked very well this year, and shows great promise for predicting future spring thaws.