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.

May 11, 2019: Satellite Saturday

Aqua didn’t get a perfect look at Lake of the Woods today, due to some high thin cloud, but Terra had an unobstructed view, and got a beautiful sharp image.

Here’s the false-colour version first:

The three large ice sheets seen yesterday—on Shoal Lake, in Little Traverse, and south of the Barrier Islands—have all shrunk dramatically. The smaller patch on Bigstone Bay seems to have gone completely.

Fun with clouds: the fair-weather cumulus clouds at the left edge of the frame are low: you can tell because their shadows are sharp and tight.* The big patch of cloud in the upper right corner is higher, and the shadow is softer and wider. The cotton-candy clouds at the lower right are higher altitude, so their shadows are fuzzy and widely separated. It’s cold up there; these clouds are blue because they are composed of ice.

*When I see drifting herds of clouds like these over the prairies, I call them buffalo ghosts.

Here’s the natural colour version of the same image:

The details of the lake don’t stand out as well, but the ice is very plain to see. Interestingly, the city of Kenora is easy to spot: look directly above the most northerly ice sheet, and you’ll see a sprawling beige area. That’s Kenora. Now that you know where to look, squint at the false-colour image, and you can make out our three suburban lakes: Rabbit, Round and Laurenson’s.

There’s a bit more to say about Bigstone Bay. Keep in mind that a sheet of ice a kilometre square would only be a tiny speck of four pixels on one of these satellite images, so absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

I got this comment from Jeff, who finally reached Hay Island this afternoon.

I made it to Hay, all of Bigstone ice free, except for some in front of Smith Camps, which that is likely gone by now or close to.

Smith Camps is located on Thunder Bay, just east of Pine Portage Bay and Heenan point.

I received this picture from Ted Main at about 3:00 this afternoon.

Ted says: Here is a picture from Thunder Ridge Road (Heenan point) facing north to Northern Harbour.

There are patches of candled ice in the foreground, and perhaps a more extensive sheet towards Pine Portage Bay in the distance.

A note on the weather: a week or so ago, the outlook was dismal, with temperatures expected to run consistently a little below normal until the second half of May. We did better than that today: we spent several hours at 19ºC this afternoon, which is actually slightly above normal for  mid-May. It was lovely. I got the patio furniture out, and we had drinks on the deck. The Weather Network’s 14-day forecast now says that although daytime highs will run a little shy of normal, overnight lows will be on the mild side.

 

May 10, 2019: Almost There

Here’s today’s satellite image from Terra.

This picture’s a little blurry, but it’s clear enough to tell the tale. Shoal Lake is trying to hide under a cloud but there’s still ice in the main part of Shoal. On Lake of the Woods, a large sheet of ice survives on Little Traverse, and there’s a smaller sheet south of the Barrier Islands at the centre of the picture.  Just above that is Hay Island’s distinctive “battleaxe” shape and although I thought Bigstone Bay might be fully open, there’s still a fuzzy blue patch there, representing weak ice.

There’s no longer any ice visible in the Clearwater Bay or Ptarmigan Bay areas, but anything less than a kilometre square (four pixels) would be invisible at this resolution.

May 9, 2019: Andrew Kozlowski

Just got these aerial photos from Andrew Kozlowski. He took them around 7:00 this evening.

Scotty Island, looking south west at the Barrier Islands. Those long, straight bits of ice on Scotty’s shore are remnants of an ice road. Looks like there’s still some significant ice south of the Barrier Islands.

This is Whisky Island, also looking roughly south west. The Manitou is clearing out.

It won’t be long now.

Thanks Andrew!

 

May 8, 2019: Yesterday’s Satellite Images

I did fly today, but cloudy skies gave flat lighting that made it really hard to tell the difference between ice and water. Both just looked grey. I didn’t take any pictures.

I was so busy selecting and cropping photographs for the last two days that I didn’t have time to check on the satellite images. Both Aqua and Terra captured sharp images on May 7th. I’ve updated all the links under the SATELLITE PICTURES sidebar, but I’m going to show you the Aqua pictures here.

I’ll start with a labelled version to get you oriented.

Now the clean version so you can see the ice more clearly.

The lake has less than 50% ice cover now, with the strongest, brightest ice on the Little Traverse (where the letters OF THE appear on the labelled version.) Below that, Big Traverse has fractured ice, while above the Alneau Peninsula, there’s a wide expanse of ice as far north as the Barrier Islands. West of Lake of the Woods, it’s interesting to note that Shoal Lake still has plenty of ice, West Hawk Lake has weak ice, and Falcon Lake is open.

For comparison, here’s the natural colour version of the same image.

Although it’s harder to distinguish water from land, the white ice really stands out. Bigstone Bay is a good example, and so is Silver Lake. Subtler patches can be seen on Ptarmigan Bay, Clearwater Bay, and Andrew Bay.

Keep in mind that these images are from yesterday. There’s been some progress since then; I noticed today that ice on Lower Black Sturgeon has shrunk and drifted north with the current, and that’s just one place where I happened to get a good look.

In case you don’t read all the comments, here’s one from today by Stu Everett:

Was out in my boat today and managed to make it to Crow Rock. I did take a look out around the point and it seems clear down to Wiley Point. Can’t guarantee it is open to Wiley, it is sometimes hard to see the ice from water level, but it seems likely. The wind came up this afternoon so the trip back was less circuitous, some of the areas are quickly becoming ice free. You can see piles of ice up on the shore in many places, and where the ice is weak it is breaking up. It sure looks like some large areas are going to blow out today. I am confident that tomorrow will show many changes from the photos you took this AM. Here’s hoping!

I may not be flying again until Monday. By then I expect the ice to be nearly all gone.

 

 

 

May 7, 2019: Ding Dong, the Bridge is Gone

Caroline Armstrong texted me this morning to say the floating bridge to  Coney Island has been taken out. Here’s what it looked like from the Waterside dining room at the Clarion Inn.

This is a significant Sign of Spring, because the city removes the footbridge when the waterway is otherwise open from downtown Kenora through to Devil’s Gap.

This morning I departed from the Kenora airport without passengers, so I seized the opportunity to fly west to look at Clearwater Bay before turning on course.

You can click on any of today’s pictures to see a full-screen, zoomable version.

I’ll start with my standard shot of Rat Portage Bay and Safety Bay.

The only ice visible anywhere near the Kenora Harbourfront is that little patch by Gun Club Island, seen here in the distance above the windshield wiper arm.

We climbed westward, following the Trans-Canada past Woodlake Marine.

In this photo, White Partridge Bay is tucked in by the aircraft nose and wiper. Above the centre of the picture is the ice of Clearwater Bay, with Shoal Lake on the horizon.

This is as far west as we went, with the aircraft coming up on Corkscrew Island. Clearwater, at the right, is mostly ice-covered, but the shorelines are opening up. Zoom in for a look at Deception Bay, near the blurred propeller blade, or Woodchuck Bay, beyond Deception; they’re both open. At the left, by the wipers, Ptarmigan Bay is frozen all the way to Copper Island and Victoria Island.

As we began our turn on course, we got our best look at Shoal Lake.

Off the nose of the King Air are Echo Bay and Rush Bay; both are open, but if you zoom in, you can see a little floating ice pan on Rush Bay. Shoal Lake is top centre, and the ice isn’t covering the whole lake any more. North of Cash Island, Shoal Lake is open. Clytie Bay is partly open. Zoom in and look for the three finger-like points on Clytie’s north west shore; there’s ice to the south of them, and also on Bag Bay, next door.

We turned east to look at the Barrier Islands.

In this picture, the nose of the plane is on the Western Peninsula, with the Barrier Islands leading left. The big patch of water has spread out from The Elbow, between Mather Island and Allie Island. However, in this northern part of Lake of the Woods, there’s still more ice than open water. Whisky Island is at the left, partly chopped off at the edge of the frame.

We didn’t travel towards Sioux Narrows, but I did aim the camera south east.

This picture is centred roughly between Shore Island (half surrounded by water) and Ferrier Island (iced in). Beyond them you can see Long Bay stretching off to the left. It’s mostly open, although Yellow Girl Bay is still full of ice. At the top centre is Whitefish Bay, which is almost all ice.

That covers it for this morning’s pictures. I did take a couple on the way home. Yesterday’s pictures of Dryden weren’t very clear, so here’s a better shot of Wabigoon Lake.

As we approached Kenora, I was on the lookout for any significant developments, but it had only been about ten hours, and there really wasn’t much change.

So I’ll finish where I started, in downtown Kenora. Here’s a picture of where the bridge is not seen.

As you can see, although there are some remnants of ice road floating in Rat Portage Bay, just above the wing tip, the water’s open all the way to Devil’s Gap now.

Let the boating begin. Don’t forget to check your safety equipment.

May 2, 2019: Even Better Timing

Gary Hawryluk sent me these pictures just after I went to bed last night. He took them from WestJet 3417, which passed south of Kenora on its way from Thunder Bay to Winnipeg at approximately 5:00. By then, the clouds had mostly cleared, so he got some great shots from Flight Level 240, or about 24,000 feet.

Click on any of Gary’s images to see them full-screen and zoomable.

Gary says: Ice road from town to east side of Scotty’s (left 1/3 of shot), turning west across Manitou at the north end Scotty’s.

I’ll fill in a few more details: the plane is somewhere over the Alneau Peninsula, and this picture looks north across the ice at the eastern half of the Barrier Islands.  Halfway up the left edge is part of Allie Island and to the right are East Allie Island, French Narrows and the Eastern Peninsula. If you need help finding French Narrows, start at the vaguely arrowhead shaped island near the middle. That’s Ferrier. to the left of it is a skinny little island that points up at French Narrows.  Kenora is hidden under the edge of the cloud layer at the top.

Experimental Feature: Aerial photos with labels superimposed.

Feel free to use the comment page if you’d like to see something like this more often.

In order to keep the file size the same, this version of the image has been made smaller, and is not zoomable.

On my wish list: a way to display the small labelled image on the blog but have clicking on it take you to the full-size, unlabelled version.

Next is the western half of the Barrier Islands.

Gary says: Good illustration of the nether reaches ice roads. Crescent Island at centre left, 12 Mile Portage is where the road crosses the Barrier Islands. Further north is Whiskey Island. where it looks very sloppy (consistent with your image).

There’s so much open water at The Elbow now, between Allie Island and Mather Island, that it’s hard to make out details around Queer Island in the upper right. At the very top edge, to the right of the cloud, you can see the water flowing past Anchor Island into Keewatin Channel.

Further west.

Gary says: Ice road through 12 Mile, heading south along the West Peninsula. Image illustrates solid ice on LOW, but open water in lakes inland. Crescent Island at centre of image, with open water in the “U”.

The left side of this picture is all dark because of water flowing through Big Narrows and Tranquil Channel. To the right of them is where the ice road zigzags between Rope Island and Little Rope Island. In the distance at the top left corner of the frame, White Partridge Bay is peeking through a gap in the clouds.

Gary’s last shot is of Shoal Lake.

Gary says: Bad looking ice on Shoal Lake. Ice covered Falcon and West Hawk just visible upper left of image.

Stevens Island is at the bottom edge, Silver Fox Island is smudged by something on the window, Cash Island is close to the middle. Snow drifts persisting on the ice make me think that the ice on Shoal Lake is less porous than on Lake of the Woods.

I think this is Gary Hawryluk’s third year of sending me photographs. Thanks so much, Gary.