May 2, 2019: Good Timing

My morning trip today was flown in cloud and showers, so there are no pictures from that. However, my afternoon trip brought me back to Kenora just as the sun broke through at about four o’clock this afternoon.

First, two pictures from guest contributors.

Rick Jackson sent me this picture from the French Narrows/Andrew Bay area. It was taken on April 30th, but it’s fun to see someone using a good-sized aluminum boat as an ice-breaker.

Rick says: We live at French Narrows and on April 30th lowered boat to see how far I could get? That Green Buoy is SE of Square Island #E25, ice was solid enough for the boat to ride up on top . Looking back in diaries we should get to BarePoint by May 08 -09 ?

I also got this May 1st picture of Rush Bay from Joe Pereira.

Joe says: Looks like all of Rush Bay is free of ice.

It’s been a frustrating week for aerial photography, but this afternoon the cloud scattered out, and we were able to fly over Lake of the Woods get some useful shots. The low cloud layer was breaking up, but we still had to stay beneath it, so these pictures are from a fairly low angle.

You can click on any of the following pictures to see a full-screen version that can be zoomed to it’s full resolution.

First up: Keewatin Channel/Rat Portage Bay.

Looking roughly east. The isolated island below the centre of the picture is Yacht Club Island; you can see the red roof of the Clubhouse at the east end. That blurry rectangle is the electrical connector for airplane’s heated windshield. Worth noting in this photograph is Gun Club Island, visible above Yacht Club. Because of the ice roads, Gun Club is always the last thing to let go on Rat Portage Bay, but it looks like that could happen any day now.

Next we banked south to fly down Keewatin Channel.

That’s Crowe Island right on the nose of the King Air, with ice extending left towards Rat Portage Bay. Above Crowe is Anglican Island, Channel Island and so on, with The Tangle at the right above the wipers. Zoom in to see Scotty Island in the distance.

I’ve been trying to get closer to Clearwater Bay for days, so we turned west.

This is Bulman Bay, just south of Rheault Bay, with Bulman Island near the middle of the picture. Ice seems to be shore to shore here. The eastern end of White Partridge Bay is at the right side of the frame. There are patches of open water there, but most of the dark areas are just cloud shadows.

Here’s Corkscrew Channel.

Looking west towards Clearwater. I wish we could have gone further west, or at least climbed higher, but I didn’t see any significant water in this direction.

We swung south towards Brûlé Point.

Ice is starting to let go here. None of the deciduous trees are turning green. I don’t think they’re even budding yet.

Then we had to turn east to start heading for the airport.

This is Fox Island and The Manitou. Follow the softening ice road at the left to check out Hare Island, Wolf Island and Welcome Channel. Something looked strange about Whisky Island, so we went for a closer look.

The Manitou is almost entirely frozen, but there’s some weird patchy ice around Whisky Island with a few air holes in it.

We straightened out to the east again.

Holmstrom’s Marsh is at the lower left of this photo, and Thompson Island extends beyond the aircraft’s nose.

Zoom in on this picture to see the open water getting tantalizingly close to Scotty Island. Right now there’s an ice barrier between Anchor Island and Scotty, but it should let go in a day or so.

Last, as we headed off the lake towards the airport, a look north over our left wing at Galt Island and Devil’s Gap.

Allan’s Island is partly hidden by the prop, and the propeller blade is pointing right at Devil’s Gap. In this picture, you can really see how the ice roads strengthen the ice around Baker’s Island at the mouth of Matheson Bay at the right, and off the wingtip, north towards Rogers Island and Treaty Island.

That concludes today’s whirlwind tour.

Weather note: there was a dusting of snow on the ground again this morning, and although the sun did come out late this afternoon, we still only managed to reach six or seven degrees Celsius. Winnipeg was sunnier for more of the day, so it was warmer there, but basically, a huge swath of Canada from the Prairies to Quebec is caught in a cold northerly air mass. Forecasters are fairly confident that colder than normal temperatures will persist for two weeks or so. They’re not  making any extravagant promises for the weeks after that, either.

 

May 1, 2019: Marinas, Aerials and a Graph

Lots of stuff today. I’ll start with some contributor photos, move on to a handful of fresh aerial photographs, and finish with a look at Sean’s Thaw Graph and the weather outlook.

You can click on any of the images to see them full-screen. Some will be higher resolution than others.

I got photographs from three contributors today that follow up on my marina report from yesterday. Here they are in the order I received them.

Al Smith sent me this picture of the docks at Smith Camps on Thunder Bay.

Smith Camps on Thunder Bay.

This shot looks out from Thunder Bay at Bigstone Bay.

Then Ian Bruce sent me this look at Bigstone from a different vantage point.

Ian says: Taken from mainland on Branch road 6A, looking south to Hay Island. Boulder Island middle distance to the east side touching flag pole. Still lots of ice, shorelines thinning to a bit open.

A little later, Brian Finnegan sent me a picture  of Henderson’s Marina on Route Bay.

Henderson’s Marina, Route Bay.

Looks like things are coming along there.

In a separate email, Brian attached this shot of the docks at Northern Harbour.

Docks at Northern Harbour, Pine Portage Bay.

Brian mentioned that marina operator Gary Hall said he hopes to be putting boats in the water next week.

Thanks to Al, Ian and Brian for taking the time to send me their pictures to share with you.

Okay, on to aerial photographs. Today wasn’t great weather for taking pictures. Luckily, I grabbed a few shots in the morning, just in case the afternoon was poor. This turned out to be the right choice: although we had low cloud in the morning, we had lower cloud in the afternoon, with showers as well.

So, I’ll start with the standard view of downtown Kenora I get after we lift off from Runway 26 and climb to the west.

Laurenson’s Lake is open now, and so is Round Lake (not shown in this pic) Rat Portage Bay still has some ice, but it looks very weak.

As we start to swinging south to head east to Dryden, we get a look at the area south of Devil’s Gap.

In brief: Matheson Bay at the left, Gordon and Galt Islands near the middle, Rogers and Treaty Islands at the right. The ice looks soft here, too. The channel into Devil’s Gap is open at the lower left, partly blurred out by a propeller blade.

Next, as we continue to turn from south to east, we look at Bald Indian Bay.

Sultana Island dominates the middle of the frame, Pine Portage Bay is behind that, and Heenan Point extends almost to the right edge of the picture. Thunder Bay lies behind it.

Okay, remember how I said it was a good thing I snapped a few pictures on the way out this morning? Here’s what it looked like in the afternoon. I had to grab this shot through the side window; it’s impossible to shoot through the windshield with our high-speed wipers going.

Anyway, this looks south west at part of Bigstone Bay with Heenan Point at the right and Hay Island emerging from the rain in the distance.

Now, on to the weather situation.

I had to email Sean to ask him to update the Thaw Graph. As you can imagine, it’s not good news, and he didn’t want to depress everyone. Even so, I think it’s a useful way to picture the temperature trends and their significance.

Click on the graph to more easily read the fine print. The blue line with dots represents how our daily mean temperature is adding up towards our goal. (Set to 240 points based on similar ice-making conditions last winter.) With recent temperatures barely squeaking above freezing, that upward progress has levelled off lately. That means a delay in accumulating enough warm weather to melt the presumed amount of ice.

Which brings us to the forecast. A normal daytime high this time of year is around 15ºC. The current  Weather Network forecast doesn’t call for a temperature that warm until mid-May. Forecasts can be wrong, of course, and they’re most certainly subject to change. But it seems likely that we’ll be spending the next two weeks struggling, (and mostly failing) to reach double-digit highs. At night, we’ll be close to freezing.

If there’s a bright side, it’s a peculiar one: miserable weather can also remove ice. Rain and wind are not as nice as sunshine, but they do transfer energy that can melt and break up ice. As we head into May, I’ll take any help we can get.

 

April 24, 2019: Fresh Photos

I got some new photographs this morning. Lake ice continues to weaken all over.

Tech note: For the last few years, I have taken pictures with my trusty smartphone, a Samsung Galaxy 5 Neo. This winter, some dust got inside the lens, and there have been black specks on the pictures ever since. It was often possible to crop them out on the Ice Patrol photos, but I have been wanting to address the issue.

Starting tomorrow, photographs will be taken using a new phone, a Samsung Galaxy S10e.

As usual, you can click on these pictures to see a full-screen version that can be zoomed to full resolution.

First up, a familiar shot: Rat Portage Bay and Safety Bay. If we take off on Runway 26, this is what we see soon after departure.

This time, I’ve included Laurenson’s Lake. All three of Kenora’s suburban lakes—Rabbit Lake, Round Lake and Laurenson’s Lake—are darkening fast. Over on Rat Portage Bay and Safety Bay, water is eating away at the weakening ice.

Here’s a look at Devil’s Gap and Treaty Island.

Although the ice roads are still visible as relatively strong lines, the ice appears to be rotting over wide areas now.

As Devil’s Gap went behind the wing, we were able to photograph more of the area around Town Island.

This looks west over Matheson Bay, and clearly shows Rogers Island, just in front of the wingtip, then Galt Island, Gordon Island and Town Island.

Now a shot from further away that includes a bit more territory.

This picture includes not only Matheson Bay in the centre foreground, but also Bare Point and part of Bald Indian Bay to the left. Beyond Bare Point is Lunny Island, and beyond that Middle Island and Scotty Island are in the middle distance.

As we turned east, we caught this view of Northern Harbour and Longbow Lake.

Pine Portage Bay is half hidden behind the nose of the aircraft, but it’s all frozen, as is Longbow Lake. With the sun shining on the ice, it wasn’t as easy to judge the colour or condition of the ice here.

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 2, 2019: Flurries at Sunset

We had a long day at work today, returning to Kenora at around 7:30. The sun was in our eyes and we were  circling around snow flurries, so we were kind of busy. It was also turbulent, so a lot of the pictures were blurred.

Here are a handful of the better ones.

I could not get the sunlight on Safety Bay to make the open water stand out from the snow. You can see it best if you click on the image to zoom in, and then click again to see it at full resolution.

On the other hand, it’s a cool shot of a snow flurry over by Laclu somewhere. Usually I crop out the sky to reduce the upload time, but tonight I’m leaving it in.

This looks west over downtown (you should have no trouble picking out the Clarion Inn). The golf course and Golf Course Bay are in the left foreground. Coney Island falls near the middle with Rat Portage Bay and Devil’s Gap on the left side, while Safety Bay and Kenora Bay are on the right, near the windshield wipers. The awkward combination of shadow and reflected sunlight make it hard to tell, but I’d say there’s not much change downtown.

Next, Keewatin Channel.

Looking west over Treaty Island. Again, the light is awkward, so it’s hard to see if there’s any progress on connecting Safety Bay’s water to Keewatin Channel’s.

But behold! What’s this between Keewatin Channel and Town Island? Is it a new patch of water?

Let’s take a closer look as we turn around to head for the airport.

Aha! That is new. A new lead opening up near Billygoat Island. That’s Town Island behind it.

My last shot was an attempt to catch a glimpse of conditions at Devil’s Gap. It’s not much good for that, but it’s a lovely picture of some snow clouds!

Gordon Island and Galt Island near the bottom of the frame, Devil’s Gap near the center of the picture.

It’s getting late, and I have to fly again tomorrow, so I’ll have to check this over, post it and go to bed.

March 28, 2019: Four Quick Shots

I got called in to fly today, and had time to quickly take a few pictures at midday.

Shortly after take-off, I captured this view of downtown Kenora, looking west.

Devil’s Gap and Treaty Island are near the center of the picture and the Lakeside neighbourhood is to the right. At first glance, I thought the open water of Safety Bay had connected to the Keewatin Channel, but those darker areas around the Yacht Club are not open water, they’re just cloud shadows.

Click on the image to see it full screen, then click on that larger image to see it at higher resolution.

When we got a little further out, I snapped a shot of Keewatin Channel.

Town Island is at the left edge of the frame, Galt Island is at the wingtip, and beyond that, open water can be seen at Shragge’s Island near the center of the picture. Zoom in for the clearest view of what’s water and what’s shadow. There hasn’t been a great deal of change, but in the foreground of this photo, you can see a lot of rippled snow cover where the white snow drifts alternate with grey slush.

Down by the Barrier Islands, I thought I saw a significant patch of water near The Elbow.

But looking at the picture now, I’m not so sure. What I took to be water is near the center of the frame, between Allie Island and Shammis Island. If you zoom in, it does look a little bluer than the other shadows, but this photograph is inconclusive.

Lastly, because the satellite pictures indicated that water was opening up in Big Narrows, we went for a look.

This time it was obvious: we could see multiple areas of water from some distance away, including some in Tranquil Channel. This picture looks west over Wiley Point, with Shoal Lake in the distance.

Overall, not a lot more water showing, but the quality of the snow cover does look poorer, with lots of slushy areas emerging.

I should be flying again tomorrow, after dropping in on Ken at Q-104 in the morning.

 

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.