April 16, 2019: Aerial Photographs

Yesterday’s post with Sean’s graphs has been updated, to show a thaw index closer to last year’s actual result instead of last year’s forecast. Also the graphs have titles now. You may need to hit refresh to see the changes.

Now six pictures from around 10:00 this morning.

I’ll start with the Winnipeg River, because we were arriving from the north.This is looking west at the Big Straight, with Minaki at the right hand edge of the picture. Although the river has quite a lot of open water, the lakes are a different story.

You can click on any of these pictures to see them full-screen, and click on that larger image to zoom to the full resolution.

A little closer to town, around Dufresne Island, facing south west.Downtown Kenora is at the left, Keewatin is above the centre of the frame, with Darlington Bay extending to the right.

Here’s a nice shot of the whole Kenora harbourfront.Kenora Bay and the LOW hospital campus are at the lower left. Keewatin is at the right. If you drive over the Keewatin Bridge, you see a lot of open water, but there’s  ice out by Yacht Club Island. Coney Island is still surrounded by ice and Rat Portage Bay is pretty solid.

This next picture shows the condition of the lake as a whole: white ice as far as the eye can see.Zoom in to look at the open water in The Tangle. Left of centre, you can see the ice does look a little discoloured out between Town Island and Scotty Island now.

Lastly, a look at Pine Portage Bay, Long Point and Longbow Lake.Sorry, but there’s no sign of any melting in this area.

I talked to someone that went ice fishing in the Storm Bay last weekend. They said there was still three feet of solid ice, with only an inch or two of softer refrozen slush on top.

This is why I’ve been pointing my camera at the river and harbourfront; there’s not much going on anywhere else. When I get a chance, I’ll try to swing by Sioux Narrows and the Barrier Islands because satellite imagery suggests there’s some water showing there, but that’s a fairly significant detour, so I’m saving that for when there’s more to see.

Satellite images were good today, especially the ones from Terra. Links updated.

April 11, 2019: Little Change

It was gusty and bumpy today at low altitudes today, so I took one quick picture from fairly high up before descending into the turbulence to land.

Still, it’s a useful picture, taken from 6500 feet above sea level, (or about a mile above the lake) because it shows all the area that was hard to photograph on Tuesday, when we had to fly low.

Click on the picture to see a full-screen, zoomable version.

The photograph looks north west, with Treaty Island near the middle of the frame. Gun Club Island is at the precise centre. There might be a little more water showing at the left edge, where Keewatin Channel turns into The Tangle. Water on Safety Bay seems to be creeping out to Yacht Club Island. Devil’s Gap looks about the same, especially at the Rat Portage Bay end.

There hasn’t been much progress lately. Temperatures have been low, and although rain did remove a layer of snow cover, it soon snowed again and covered everything up.

The only places the ice is yielding is where the current is strong. The rest of the lake—and all the other lakes in the area—are still ice covered. I’ll range further when conditions improve and there’s something to show for it.

In the meantime, the forecast is for snow tonight. The Weather Network says only a centimetre or so, while Accuweather says six to twelve centimetres. Environment Canada splits the difference, calling for two to four. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.


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.




April 7, 2019: Signs of Spring Sunday

The gulls are flocking now, I saw—and heard—them wheeling over the shopping mall the other day.

Geese are increasingly easy to spot, and I’ve seen up to six in one place, compared to the isolated pairs I saw earlier.

I haven’t spotted my first duck or loon yet.

My favourite sign of spring so far? After a last round of snow removal a couple of weeks ago, the City Works Department has switched over to street sweepers. I caught up to a pair of them on Veteran’s Drive one day last week.

Oh, I almost forgot! I’ve seen a few motorcycles on the road. Please keep your eyes open and give them plenty of room, as they will be contending with challenging conditions due to wet patches and sand on the streets.

Snow is melting on the shady north side of my steep roof, and is thinning out in my back yard. This is because after skies cleared Friday afternoon, we went back to wet weather for the weekend. It’s been drizzly a lot, with periods of fog and even real rain. Temperatures have stayed above freezing, so the rain has been having quite an effect. Snowbanks are giving way to puddles.

The hiking trails on Tunnel Island are tough going: slushy, slippery and wet. Further from the parking lot, the less travelled trails have deep snow on either side of narrow packed paths. In places, it’s like trying to walk along a wet log. Ice cleats are essential.

I’m scheduled to fly on both Monday and Tuesday, as long as the misty weather lifts as forecast. Speaking of the forecast, the fourteen day outlook is not marvellous. The Weather Network is calling for some slightly below-normal temperatures for the coming week. Further down the road, nighttime temps may rise above normal while daytime highs still fall a little shy. A normal high this time of year is 8ºC, while a seasonal overnight low would be -3ºC.  That gives us room to be below normal but still comfortably above freezing, at least most of the time.

April 3, 2019: Better Light

I got home slightly earlier today. With the sun low in the western sky, I still couldn’t get good pictures of the Winnipeg River, but I can summarize what I saw: near Minaki, there are patches of open water, while the Big Straight is still frozen where it is wide with a more sluggish current. From the Dalles through to the headwaters on Lake of the Woods, there’s a lot of open water where the current is strong in the main channel. Quieter bays are still frozen.

And now, on to what I could get clear pictures of.

Looking south west over Kenora with the headwaters of the Winnipeg River in the foreground. Downtown Kenora and Kenora Bay are at the left of the picture, and Safety Bay is near the center of the frame. The bad news: recent snow flurries have restored a beautiful white layer of reflective snow on the ice. The better news: open water on Keewatin Channel is expanding towards Safety Bay.

Here’s a slightly closer look at the Keewatin Channel and Devil’s Gap areas.

In this picture, Kenora’s downtown Whitecap Pavilion is at the bottom of the photo, peeking above the dashboard. The east end of Coney Island is in the middle of the picture, and Keewatin Channel is visible in the distance at the upper right. Zoom in there to see the area where the current is expanding the channel waters towards those at the Keewatin Bridge. There’s little progress at Devil’s Gap.

Remember, you can click on these pictures to see them full-screen, and if you then click on that larger picture, it should zoom to a much higher resolution.

Yesterday, I  couldn’t see Pine Portage Bay or Longbow Lake because a big snow flurry obscured them. Here’s a picture of how they look following that snowfall.

I’m afraid it looks more like January than April. This fresh snow cover is not working in our favour, which brings me to the topic of the forecast.

For some weeks now, the forecast has been along the lines of: “we just have a few more cold days, and then things are going to warm up.” And then the warming trend seems to get postponed for a few more days. My mother used to say, “Jam tomorrow, and jam yesterday, but never jam today.” This was a (Welsh?) folk saying that means that although you’ve had it before, and will one day have it again, the hope of having a luxury now are likely to be disappointed. I am reminded of this because the abnormally warm weather I eagerly anticipated for this spring seems to keep receding.

Don’t be too discouraged. One thing that makes the fourteen day forecast at the Weather Network look as if it’s being revised downward is that normal temperatures go up in the spring. So although we don’t see temperatures rocketing above normal, it is getting slowly warmer. Spring is coming, even if it’s not arriving with a bang. A few days ago, they were showing a seasonal average range as a daytime high of 4ºC, with an overnight low of -6ºC. In other words, it’s pretty typical to have daily mean temperatures of just about freezing at the end of March. Now that we’re into April, they show a normal high as being 6ºC and the low at -4ºC, representing a subtle shift to more of the day being above freezing.

However, a sudden switch to unusually warm weather has not happened, and I don’t see it coming in the latest round of fourteen and sixteen day forecasts.

What we might get is rain tomorrow and a warm weekend. That would help.




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 30, 2019: Satellite Saturday

It’s been too cloudy to produce any clear satellite images since the 27th, but what we can do is look back to see how this March compares to the same time in previous years.

First, let’s get oriented. Here’s a similar picture from later in the spring that I marked up with some place names.

Now to business. Here are a set of false colour images from the end of March. The false colour looks weird, but it gives the most contrast between ice and water.

2018 is in there because of the similarities to this year. 2017 was a mild, early spring. 2014 was an exceptionally cold, late thaw.

The black squiggles near the top of each frame are open water on the Winnipeg River. Near the middle of the pictures you can sometimes pick out water at Big Narrows. 2019 and 2018 are a close match, but I think this year’s going a little better. Also, there’s a three day difference in the dates, because some days were too cloudy for satellite shots.

The bottom pair show the range of conditions you can see at this time of year. 2017 was mild: by late March the Winnipeg River was almost entirely open, and the Rainy River was opening things up at the south end of the lake. Ice-out that year was in late April. On the other hand, 2014 was unusually bitter, and there was hardly any open water at all. In fact, Lake Superior (not shown) was 90% frozen, which is wild for the end of March. Lake of the Woods wasn’t ice free until May 21st that year.

Thanks to Liam Gumley, of the Space Science and Engineering Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for permission to crop, annotate and use these pictures.

What does all this mean for this year? It means we’re doing about average. Yes, things look a lot like 2018, and that was a late spring. But it was late mainly because of a nasty stretch of frigid weather in Late April and early May. That shouldn’t happen this year. The first few days of April will be below normal, but as we head into the second week of April, temperatures should swing up, and at least one forecast says we might see shirtsleeve temperatures by the middle of the month. Let’s hope that prediction holds up.