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 6, 2022: Fresh Aerials

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

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

Looking west over Laurenson’s Lake.

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

Devil’s Gap and Treaty Island.

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

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

Town Island and the Manitou.

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

Big Narrows and Wiley Point.

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

The Barrier Islands, seen from the south side.

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

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

Thanks Justin!

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

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

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

Signs of Spring:

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

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

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

Ebony gets refreshed after overheating.

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

May 5, 2022: Overview

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

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

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

Whitefish Bay and Long Bay.

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

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

North of the Alneau Peninsula.

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

Big Narrows.

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

Thanks, Jonathan!

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

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

We also have a new drone Panorama from Paul Leischow.

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

Drone view of Keewatin Channel.

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

Thanks, Paul!

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

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

May 3, 2022: Signs of Progress

Well okay. The thaw has finally started.

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

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

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

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

Pine Portage Bay, looking west over Bald Indian Bay.

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

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

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

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

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

Time to check on the Barrier Islands.

Looking west over Square Island at the Barrier Islands.

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

There’s progress down at Big Narrows, too.

Tranquil Channel and Big Narrows.

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

Next up, Ptarmigan Bay.

Ptarmigan Bay, with Clearwater and Deception in the distance.

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

There’s one exception.

Open water at Ash Rapids.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Signs of spring: the pelicans are back.

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

April 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.

 

March 28, 2022: Andy Zabloski

Tom Hutton and Andy Zabloski–a couple of my old colleagues–went flying today and sent me an excellent selection of pictures to show what’s going on. Spoiler: not much.

We’ll start with a look at Keewatin Channel and Second Channel, because they’re close to  town and are always a couple of the first stretches to open up.

Second Channel, Keewatin Channel and Safety Bay, with Keewatin in the background.

Not really a lot of open water here, for late March.

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

Here’s Devil’s Gap.

Devil’s Gap.

Very little water here so far, only where the current is strongest. Rat Portage Bay, in the foreground of this shot, has mild currents and tends to thaw fairly late.

Northern Harbour, with Hay, Middle and Scotty Islands further away.

Northern Harbour, on Pine Portage Bay, is still totally frozen in, and Bigstone Bay looks solid too.

Middle Island and Scotty Island, with Whisky Island at the right and the Barrier Islands in the middle distance.

Last is a look at Middle Island and Scotty Island, and as you’d expect, it’s all frozen out that way. The ice looks a little softer around the Elbow, where the current pushes between the Barrier Islands.

Speaking of softer ice, I should warn that maintenance on the ice roads was halted a week ago, and Leonard Boucha says conditions are very risky. See more of what he has to say in this article at Kenora Online.

Before I forget, there might still be tickets available left for Common Ground. Last I heard, there were a handful at both the museum and the library, but that was days ago. I’ll be one of this year’s storytellers, and I’ve been having fun putting together a talk and slideshow to explain what I’ve learned in over thirty years of observing the thaw.

As part of that, I’ve been reviewing some satellite imagery. As of yesterday, pictures of this year bore a striking similarity to pictures from the same date in 2018. 

LotW in false colour from March 27, 2022.

Nothing to see here, except a little water on the Winnipeg River, and maybe down by Big Narrows. Unless we get some really favourable weather conditions, we can expect this year’s ice-free date to fall somewhere close to 2018’s: May 14th. Don’t panic: much of the lake will be boat accessible a week or more before the lake is 100% clear.

Signs of Spring: I’ve heard some geese, and finally managed a clear sighting of a pair of Canadas yesterday.

I’ll be chatting with Ken O’Neil at Q-104 tomorrow morning: Tuesday March 29th. Give us a listen.

 

 

 

 

 

April 24, 2021: Not Satellite Saturday.

I’ve been posting Satellite pictures all week, and there aren’t any new ones because it was cloudy. Still, yesterday’s weather wasn’t as bad as it might have been. I saw only a little snow falling, and it did not stick.

The weather was good enough for Justin Martin to go flying in the afternoon, and he tracked down some tiny fragments of ice that made it through Thursday night and Friday morning.

You can click on these pictures to see the large versions.

The Manitou.

Naturally, the ice is in the same area as before, it’s only drifted a little. In the Manitou, this remnant of an ice road has stuck itself to the north shore of Mather Island. The photo looks north east across the Slate Islands, with Scotty Island and Middle Island on the right in the middle distance. Near the horizon on the left, it’s snowing.

South of the Barrier Islands.

As to the ice pans that were south of the Barrier Islands, just two scraps lasted until Friday.

None of this ice is inconveniencing anyone. It’s really just of technical interest to ice nerds like me who want to know exactly what day the ice was gone. For my purposes, I’m going to record today as the day Lake of the Woods was completely clear of ice. I’m not sure about Shoal Lake; if there’s any ice there, it’s probably too inconspicuous to see from a distance.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an appointment to get a vaccine.

 

April 23, 2021: Last Ice

This is yesterday afternoon’s false-colour image from NASA’s Aqua satellite.

If you click on this image, you’ll see a version with landmark tags.

Aqua satellite’s MODIS image from April 22, 2021, in false colour.

There’s no longer any ice visible anywhere, not even on Shoal Lake or Big Sand Lake. Not from space, anyway.

Justin Martin took these pictures at sunset yesterday. They show how much the ice degraded during Thursday’s warmth. There are just two patches of ice remaining on the Manitou.

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

The Manitou, The Slate Islands and Shammis Island.

This is from over the Manitou, looking south west at Shammis Island. In the foreground are the trailing end of the Slate Island chain, and at the right edge of the frame are the larger islands in the group: Charlie Island, St. George Island and Palisade Island. This ice is disintegrating fast.

Slate Island, The Elbow.

Looking more directly south at the Elbow from over Scotty Island, there’s a second patch of ice near Slate Island. It’s barely holding together.

Justin flew over the Barrier Islands to take this picture.

Oliver Island, Crescent Island.

From over Oliver Island, which was visible in the distance in the previous photo, here’s what’s left of the ice south of the Barrier Islands.  The ice here looks as weak as wet tissue paper.

Justin didn’t expect any of this ice to last the night, and I agree with him. Temperatures stayed well above freezing until around 3:00am last night, and I would guess that this ice is all gone by now.

It might take a day or two to confirm this. Today’s forecast is for wet snow, so it won’t be good flying  or boating weather, and the satellites won’t be able to see anything either.

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 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!