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 8, 2018: More Good News!

I got pictures from two more co-workers. Tom Hutton and James Biesenthal were flying together, and they both took pictures.

First, the ones from Tom Hutton.

The classic Keewatin waterfront shot to get us started. No more ice in Safety Bay.

Here’s a closer look at Crowe Island, Anglican Island and Channel Island. They’re all clear, but there’s ice out past Thompson Island.

This third picture shows Gun Club Island in the left foreground, then Treaty Island and Roger’s look joined together by the low angle. That’s Town Island in the middle distance, left of center. Beyond it, by Nantons Island, there’s still ice.

Now some pictures from James Biesenthal. There’s some overlap with Tom’s pictures, but I’ve selected a few that offer a different view.

This is the Winnipeg River, looking south with Locke Bay spanning the frame in the background.

Further south, James photographed the west channel of the river, with Keewatin in the distance.

Then Darlington Bay with Keewatin in the center of the picture.

Then from over the Keewatin bridge, this shot of the cluster of islands that include Mackie’s, Cameron, Cross, Kalamalka, Gourlay and Yacht Club islands. Further right, Turnbull Island and Rheault Bay. You’d have to zoom in to see the distant ice on the Manitou.

The last shot is of Treaty Island, with Shragge’s to the right of center and Channel Island at the wingtip. More to the left are Rogers, Galt, and Town Islands. There’s still enough ice to block passage to Scotty Island, but it won’t last long.

Monday’s high was 28.3°C, but Tuesday was quite a bit cooler, reaching just 13°C. By Wednesday night, the Weather Network forecast says we’ll be dipping down to 1°C, and rising to just 9°C on Thursday. I don’t think it will matter much: for Lake Dwellers near Kenora, the lake will be navigable.

Although cool, Thursday should also be sunny, so the satellite photographs will show if there’s any ice remaining by then. Some ice may persist on the south part of the lake for a few days longer. Shoal Lake is going fast, so it might go at the same time Lake of the Woods this year.

In case you missed seeing the reports in the comments section, Clearwater Bay is open, West Hawk Lake is open, and down by Sioux Narrows,  Long Bay is open.

April 9, 2018: So Much Ice

I didn’t have the opportunity to head very far out over the lake today, but I didn’t need to.

Ice. Ice everywhere.

This first picture gives an overview.

Looking west: Longbow Lake dominates the foreground of this picture, with Pine Portage Bay and Sultana Island behind it.  Blindfold Lake is at the left edge. Zoom in to look closely at Bigstone Bay, and you’ll realize those gray patches are not slush, they’re just cloud shadows.

Let’s move a little closer to town.

Nanton’s Island and Lunny’s Island are the pair at the bottom left edge, then Town Island above and to the right of them. Keewatin Channel is in the center of this photograph, and the open water there still doesn’t connect to Safety Bay. In an average year, it would.

Zoom in, and you can see there’s a lot of new ice on Safety Bay. I am dismayed at how much has refrozen, and at how thick that fresh ice looks. It’s not just a thin skin.

After I turned back to the airport, I got a better look at Longbow. Like all the local lakes, it’s frozen from shore to shore.

Overall, there’s been no progress now for about three weeks. In fact, April has been so cold that we’ve made new ice where the water was open in March, so we’re actually moving backwards.

Worse, the forecast for the rest of April is for below-normal temperatures. We will see afternoon highs above freezing, but a normal high this time of year is more like 9°C, and there’s not one day forecast to hit that mark in the next two weeks.

While some ice will melt in the next while, we’ll have to catch up on thawing the new ice before we start making progress on the old stuff. And I’m still hearing reports from ice fishers that they’re bottoming out their augers on strong winter ice.

How bad could it be? My photographic records go back to 2003, and 2014 was the worst year I have in my archives. That year, the last ice on Lake of the Woods didn’t go until May 21. It was a spring so bad I didn’t start posting pictures until mid-April.

By the end of this week, we should be able to make direct comparisons to photographs from April 13, 2014. Here’s the ugly part. I’ve been looking at those pictures. We need to make some progress this week to match them.

 

April 21, 2017: Ashley Kolisnik

Scroll to the bottom  of today’s post for a Friday afternoon update.

Ashley took these pictures and sent them to me yesterday, but for technical reasons, I didn’t receive them until today.

The best part is, I just had a comment from someone who was curious about Lunny’s Island and Bare Point. This drew my attention to the fact that I had flown all around both places without taking a clear shot of either. But Ashley did.

Scotty Island, the Manitou.

This is a close-up of Scotty Island, looking south west down the Manitou toward Whiskey Island.

Town Island

The second picture is shows the Manitou from a bit further east, with Town Island in the right foreground, and Scotty Island and Nanton’s Island under the propeller blade. Bell’s Island and part of Lunny Island are just above the aircraft’s nose.

Bare Point Marina, Bigstone Bay.

Bare Point itself is just off the right edge, but this is a great shot of the Marina, looking out over Bigsby and Queen Bee Islands and south east along Bigstone Bay.

Thanks, Ashley.

One other cool thing: Bill Whicher contacted me to show how the False Color images from the MODIS satellites make it really easy to distinguish the ice on Lake of the Woods. Heavy ice is a lovely turquoise colour. Thin or rotten ice doesn’t show up as well. For that, you want the True Color image. Both links are to images from April 19th, when skies were clear.  It looks as if the lake is down to about 10% strong white ice cover, with weak dark ice probably amounting to a further 10-15%.

 

Thanks, Bill.

4:00PM Update: Today’s satellite pictures just came out. They show ice nearly all gone.

True Color April 21      False Color April 21