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.

May 2, 2018: Scenic Tour

We had a training flight today that covered a fair bit of the lake.

I’ll lead off with another look at Rat Portage Bay and Safety Bay.

The ice is letting go on Laurenson’s Lake, just right of center in this picture, and further away, the ice on Rat Portage Bay looks weaker, too.

Our second picture looks south east from Bare Point. Lunney’s Island is toward the left, and beyond it is Scotty Island. At the right side of the frame is Town Island.

If you zoom in, you’ll see little patches of water all over the place, but you can’t help but notice there’s a lot of ice out there still.

We went further in this direction, so our third picture is The Manitou.

That’s the western tip of Scotty Island at the lower left corner, and Whiskey Island is the isolated island in the white expanse that is the Manitou. Not so many holes out here; this part of the lake melts late.

Next we swung around to look at the Devil’s Elbow, the biggest patch of water near the Barrier Islands. Mather Island is at the right, Allie Island is near the middle of the picture.

Further south east, it’s all ice from Oliver Island, past Ferrier Island and pretty much all the way to Yellow Girl Bay.

We flew to Sioux Narrows.

This is taken from over Long Point Island, looking at Regina Bay. Mostly ice here.

For our next training exercise, we needed blue sky, so we turned west and headed for this gigantic “sucker hole” in the clouds.

That took us down the western end of Long Bay, so here’s a look at Whitefish Narrows. There are some promising patches of water there.

We climbed up higher, and caught this view as we turned north to stay in our patch of blue sky.

The distinctive island in the foreground is Cintiss Island, with Crescent Island behind it.  Beyond that, the span of the Barrier Islands, stretching from Crow Rock Island at the left to East Allie Island at the right.

There is open water at each narrows, but there’s also a lot of ice on the lake.

From our higher vantage point, we could clearly see Shoal Lake to our west.

The little lakes on the Western Peninsula are opening up, but Shoal Lake is deep and shows only tentative signs of opening up along the shores of Carl Bay, near the middle of this picture.

I thought you might like to see some real water, so here’s Big Narrows.

You’re looking east, with Ferris Island at the lower right. There’s open water all the way to Oak Bay, just above the middle of the picture, but Wiley Bay, to the left of it, is all ice.

Here’s a closer look at Wiley.

From here, the only water we see is on the shallow lakes of the Western Peninsula and along its shorelines.

On the home stretch back to Kenora and the airport, we caught this view of Poplar Bay. It’s mostly frozen; the dark patches are cloud shadows. The Tangle is open though.

Chasing patches of blue sky and steering away from aircraft inbound to Kenora set us roaming around today. I don’t often cover so much territory that I need to dig out four or five different marine charts, so I hope you enjoyed the tour.

If you’re in Kenora, it’s easy to form the impression that everything is melting fast, but there’s seventy-odd miles of lake you can’t see from town, and it’s mostly ice. It isn’t all going to melt this weekend.

We are making good progress, so our very late thaw can be upgraded to rather late.

April 4, 2018: Philip Vrsnik

I’ve been out of town for most of the last two days, so I’m playing catch-up. I’m uploading this on April 6, but I’m dating it April 4, because that’s when the photos were taken.

On Wednesday, I went flying in the afternoon, but it was snowing pretty hard, so I couldn’t take pictures. Luckily, Philip Vrsnik passed overhead in the morning, before the snow started. Here’s what he sent me.

Philip was on the right side of the eastbound plane, so he’s looking south. This photo is centered on Shammis and Crow Rock Island, the western pair of Barrier Islands. Whiskey Island’s distinctive Y shape marks the Manitou. Most of what you see in the foreground is the Northern Peninsula.

You can click on Philip’s pictures to see a larger, zoomable version.

Next is a look at the area closer to Kenora.

Dead center in this picture is Middle Island, with Hay Island behind and to the left, and Scotty Island in front and to the right. The vertical line of shining open water more to the lower left is Devil’s Gap, and the water at the bottom of the picture, by the wisps of cloud, is Safety Bay.

Last, a shot of some of the eastern bays.

At the bottom left, Northern Harbour’s docks on Pine Portage Bay are visible. Above that, Bigstone Bay, Hay Island, Moore Bay, Andrew Bay and Witch Bay. In the distance, Long Bay, and stretching to the top of the picture, Whitefish Bay.

Thanks again to Philip Vrsnik, who sent me these pictures.

You’ll notice there’s next to no open water to speak of. Snow cover is patchy, but none of the ice has really started to darken.

I don’t have any pictures from Thursday; I got home late and it was cloudy. I have no flights on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, but I’m back in the air on Monday. Since they’re not forecasting any above freezing temperatures until then, I don’t think I’m going to miss much.

The fourteen day forecast is currently showing below normal temperatures right through to April 20, and not every day in the coming two weeks will rise above freezing. As springs go, this is shaping up to be a late one.

 

 

April 3, 2018: Tom Lindstrom

I’m putting up a second post this evening because Tom Lindstrom just sent me these great pictures he took from the cockpit of an airliner flying east over Lake of the Woods at about 37,000 feet.

First up, West Hawk Lake!

I’m thrilled to have this, as I rarely have opportunities to range that far west. From the grey colour of the ice, I’m guessing West Hawk got rain like Kenora did last Wednesday, but not the snow that followed it.

Next, Clearwater and Ptarmigan Bays.

Echo Bay and Shoal Lake Narrows are in the foreground.

You can click on Tom’s photographs to see them full screen and full resolution.

A closer look at the Manitou and the Barrier Islands.

There are tiny patches of open water in Crow Rock Channel and at the western tip of Allie Island. They don’t appear to have grown in the last two weeks. Andrew Bay and Witch Bay can be seen at the top right of this photograph.

A nice view of Scotty, Middle and Hay Islands.

This picture gives a closer look at that water by Allie Island in the foreground, and you can zoom in to take a look at Pine Portage Bay, Thunder Bay and Longbow Lake in the background.

The high altitude view from more directly overhead makes gray patches stand out more clearly. That’s a hopeful sign that some of the ice is starting to lose its snow cover.

Thanks, Tom, for these great shots, and for being my first guest photographer of the year.