November 15, 2018: We’re Making Ice

We’ve changed seasons. The average daily temperature has dropped below freezing, and it looks like the actual inflection date was November 7th. Effectively, that’s when freezing became the fashion, rather than the fad. In the week before that, average temps were right around 0°C, except for a mild Sunday on November 4.

Sunday, November 4. The pond by the Scenic Nook trail on Tunnel Island had mostly frozen over.

On Wednesday the 7th, the daily average dropped to -4°C, and in the following week it went as low as -9.5°C.

Same pond a few days later

The forecast calls for fairly consistent low temperatures in the next weeks, and let’s face it, we’re not going to start any serious melting in December. Remember, we’re talking about daily averages here, not daytime highs.

In summary, we’re making ice now. North of Red Lake, small lakes have been frozen since about the beginning of November, and on yesterday’s training flight, I saw small bays on Lake of the Woods were icing over. Strong winds were keeping larger areas from freezing, for now.

This time of year, I always see an upsurge in emails and comments asking if I’ll be reporting on ice thickness. Ice fishers want to know! Sorry, I will not. I cannot judge the thickness of ice from an airplane, and I worry that if I report that a certain bay has frozen, people will take that to mean the ice is thick enough to support them safely.

Someone sent this graphic my way. It doesn’t say which Department of Natural Resources, but I think the credit goes to Minnesota. Note the caveat that these guidelines should only be applied to new clear ice.

Have a safe winter.

 

 

May 9, 2018: Minaki

John Sweeney and Andy Zabloski flew today and returned from the north in the afternoon, so they helped me out with some pictures of the Minaki area.

Big Sand Lake, north of Minaki. Wind has driven the last of the ice to the shore.

You can click on any of these pictures to see a high-resolution, zoomable version.

The south end of Big Sand Lake and all of Sand Lake, with Minaki visible near the left side.

Sand Lake, with Minaki closer to the center of the picture. That white streak near the horizon is ice on Shoal Lake.

Winnipeg River, with Kenora in the distance, above the center of the photograph. The narrow lake near the top left corner is Lower Black Sturgeon, and the white patch at the top right corner is ice on the south part of Lake of the Woods.

In other news, the footbridge to Coney Island came out this morning. That’s scheduled when the waterway from downtown Kenora is otherwise open all the way to Devil’s Gap.

A quick glance at the start of my own flight at twilight revealed that there are some boats in the water at Northern Harbour. We didn’t look at more distant parts of the lake, because there wasn’t enough light to distinguish ice from water.

Satellite images from the last two days have not been good. I’d like to see what’s going on with ice on the southern parts of Lake of the Woods, but cameras on both Aqua and Terra satellites have been thwarted by cloud cover. Some parts of the lake can be glimpsed through gaps in the cloud, and do show the ice darkening, but we haven’t had a really clear image since May 7th.

Tomorrow I’m scheduled for a training flight, so I hope to get a better look around.

 

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 19, 2018: Factors

I thought if we saw any change today, it would be on the river, where the current is strong. That did seem to be the case north of Minaki, but closer to Kenora, the changes were less dramatic, so just one photograph today.

Here’s a look at the Dalles. That’s Shoal Lake way off in the upper left. For those of you waiting for things to open up around Myrtle Rapids, not yet.

Yesterday I wrote about Sean’s data-based approach to spring versus my observational one. I got some cool feedback in the comments today, so I’m going to put them up here for everyone to see.

First, this one from Stu Everett on whether strong currents help the thaw go faster.

You mention that the analysis does not take a look at current, and how that impacts the length of time from inflection date to ice out. I took a look at the historical outflows from the LOW on the LOW Control Board site. There are some years around the end of March that have relatively high outflows, and others with low outflows. 2016 had very high outflows (most since 2006), and yet the length of time from inflection to ice out was the longest period shown on the graph. Similarly, 2010 was a higher than normal current (outflow) year, yet it too had a long period from inflection to thaw.
This surprises me, my gut feel was that high current flows would quickly show up in the data as a major influence. Apparently that is not the case, at least according to my admittedly brief review of the data.
However, my observation is that this year is shaping up very like 2014. That year, current flows were a bit higher than normal, and actually were on the increase through April. In contrast, current flows this year were lower than average, and have decreased this month. So, if current has any impact, one could speculate that the period from inflection date to ice out will be longer this year than in 2014, if one controlled for other variables. Given that 2014 was about an average year of 32 days, that would suggest that your estimate of less than 4.5 weeks might be a case of “whistling past the graveyard”. But I share your optimism and hope with all my might that my analysis is flawed…

Then a reminder from Matt DeWolfe about the false-colour images available from the MODIS camera on the Aqua satellite.

I find the MODIS Aqua band quite informative for seeing open water, and perhaps ice thickness. Below you can see much of the Winnipeg River open (as well as Rainy River).
https://worldview.earthdata.nasa.gov/?p=geographic&l=MODIS_Aqua_CorrectedReflectance_Bands721,VIIRS_SNPP_CorrectedReflectance_TrueColor(hidden),MODIS_Terra_CorrectedReflectance_TrueColor(hidden),Aqua_Orbit_Asc,AMSR2_Snow_Water_Equivalent(hidden),Reference_Labels(hidden),Reference_Features(hidden),Coastlines&t=2018-04-18&z=3&v=-96.22655332947613,48.32770514383812,-92.53514707947613,50.26129889383812
[cid:image001.png@01D3D7CE.8B9AF720]
MODIS (Aqua) Corrected Reflectance (Bands 7,2,1)
Temporal Coverage: 3 July 2002 – present
False Color: Red = Band 7, Green = Band 2, Blue = Band 1
This combination is most useful for distinguishing burn scars from naturally low vegetation or bare soil and enhancing floods. This combination can also be used to distinguish snow and ice from clouds. Snow and ice are very reflective in the visible part of the spectrum (Band 1), and absorbent in Bands 2 (near infrared) and 7 (short-wave infrared, or SWIR). Thick ice and snow appear vivid sky blue, while small ice crystals in high-level clouds will also appear blueish, and water clouds will appear white.
Water
Liquid water on the ground appears very dark since it absorbs in the red and the SWIR. Sediments in water appear dark blue. Ice and snow appear as bright turquoise. Clouds comprised of small water droplets scatter light equally in both the visible and the SWIR and will appear white. These clouds are usually lower to the ground and warmer. High and cold clouds are comprised of ice crystals and will appear turquoise.
Today’s Aqua image is a bit blurry, so I’ll use yesterday’s false-colour image to show you what he means.
The open water of the Winnipeg River really pops on this picture, and you can see how the river’s main channel is open far beyond Minaki and Big Sand Lake all the way up through Umfreville Lake and beyond. The rusty-looking patch near the south end of the river is Kenora, and the two patches of dark water near it are Safety Bay and Keewatin Channel. The wishbone-shaped patch of open water near the center of the picture is Big Narrows, and the tiny dark patch halfway down the right side is Whitefish Narrows. If you need more help figuring out what you’re looking at, head over to my FAQ page, then scroll down to the bottom to see a natural-colour image with some of the key features on and around Lake of the Woods labelled.

April 3, 2018: Refrozen

This time last year, we were enjoying daytime highs of about 11°C, and overnight lows above freezing. There’s nothing that warm forecast for the first half of April, and lately, we’ve been coming close to the record low temperatures.

This morning, I saw that much of Safety Bay had refrozen over the Easter weekend.

Things looked a little better this afternoon, but there’s more freezing than thawing going on right now.

Looking south from Dufresne Island, that’s Highway 17A, the bypass, at the bottom left. Note the fresh grey ice near the bridge. Looking further south, you can see Tunnel Island and all of Kenora from downtown on the left to Keewatin at the right edge.

Now a closer look at the Norman to Keewatin stretch of Safety Bay. Don’t forget you can click on these pictures to see them full-screen and zoomable to full size.

If you do zoom in, you’ll be able to see quite a lot of new ice, although it looks pretty thin and weak. By this afternoon, it was breaking loose from the old solid ice.

There still isn’t an open waterway from Safety Bay to Keewatin Channel. There’s open water around Channel Island, but it hasn’t even started to extend past Shragge’s Island yet.

This next picture overlaps with the last, but shows more of the area near downtown.

Coney Island sprawls across most of the photograph. In the background, Devil’s Gap still has only a little water, with no new expansion into Rat Portage Bay. Beyond Treaty Island, it’s solid ice as far as the eye can see, with bright white snow cover.

This isn’t going to melt fast, and there’s still a week of cold weather ahead before we can hope to start making progress again. Comparing today’s pictures to photographs from past years, I see a lot of similarities to how things looked in early April of 2013.

That would suggest an ice-free date close to May 15, and we’d need a big swing to above-normal temperatures to improve on that.

I hope I’m wrong, but I’m beginning to feel like a groundhog: six more weeks of winter.

 

March 27, 2018: River Cruise

Today’s flight brought us to Kenora from the north, so Garrett and I cruised up the Winnipeg River from Minaki to Kenora. We had pretty good timing; skies were just clearing after a dull morning. You’ll notice a lot of haze in these pictures – that’s residual moisture from the clouds that just dissipated or blew away.

First, Minaki.

I was startled to see how much more open water there was in the area around the Minaki bridge since the last time I looked. The Minaki townsite is just about dead center in this view looking west, and open water stretches from the left edge most of the way across the picture. The river channel is fairly narrow here, so there’s good current.

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

Further south, the Big Stretch is wider, slower and frozener. There was no open water to be seen until we approached Cache Point, where the river narrows again.

At the left of this photo, you can see where the river bends at The Dalles, and there’s a good stretch of open water all along there.

Looking south from Little Dalles, with open water reaching Boudreau Island. If you zoom in, you can see Laurenson’s Island and The Powderpuff. It doesn’t look like the channel is open yet to go downstream from Powderpuff to Boudreau.

This shot is centered on Fiddler’s Island. My chart doesn’t name many of the other islands, so I apologize for being vague.

Here’s the area where the power line crosses the river.

Lastly, downtown Kenora.

Looking south west, with Tunnel Island at the wingtip and the hospital bridge at the left edge. Safety Bay has opened up quite a bit, but it’s hard to tell what the ice is like under all that fresh snow.

Afternoon temperatures have been warm enough to melt most of that recent snowfall on land, but it will be more persistent on the ice. The Weather Network is still forecasting below-normal temperatures for the end of the week, with some overnight lows around -16°C and daytime highs as cool as -8°C.

I have a couple more days of flying this week, so I hope to get out over the lake for some pictures before the Easter weekend.

Then on Monday, I’m going out on the lake with my co-workers to get a first-hand look at the ice conditions. They’ll be the outdoorsy types with ice augers and fishing rods. I’ll be the nerd with the tape measure and notebook.

April 6, 2017: Steady Progress

We came home in afternoon sunlight today, and approached Kenora from the south east.

Dogtooth Lake and area

This picture looks north, with Silver Lake in the distance. It’s all ice out that way.

Click on these pictures to see a larger, high-res version that is zoomable.

We didn’t go over Sioux Narrows, but we got close enough to see Whitefish Bay.

Whitefish Bay, Long Bay, Yellow Girl Bay.

If you click on this picture and zoom in, you can make out a little open water at Whitefish Narrows. Off in the distance, the Big Traverse is still frozen.

Now that we’ve established that there are vast expanses of ice, let’s get back to my preference for taking pictures where the water is.

The Elbow.

This picture looks west at the open water at the Elbow. East Allie Island is in front of the wing, then Allie Island, and beyond the water are Mathis Island and Shammis Island.

The biggest expanse of open water is still Keewatin Channel.

Keewatin Channel.

The picture above was taken from over Middle Island. Scotty Island and the distinctive Scotty’s Beach are at the lower left. Just above that, you can see that water is lapping at Anchor Island now.

Last, a closer look at the passage through Devil’s Gap.

Devil’s Gap.

Kenora is in the distance at the left in this shot that looks north. You still couldn’t really go very far through the Gap by boat, but you could make it to Nickerson Island, and Galt will be reachable soon.

That’s about it for my photos today, but Matthew Render snapped a few shots from his Air Canada A320 as he flew by at 37,000 feet.

Shoal Lake.

These are not zoomable. Matthew probably sent them straight from his smartphone.

First, Shoal Lake. All ice, except a little patch at the left edge.

This shot looks east, so you can see Clearwater Bay, Ptarmigan Bay and that area in the background.

 

Big Traverse.

The North West Angle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looks like there’s some water at the North West Angle. Thanks, Matthew.

That’s it for today.