May 7, 2022: Satellite Saturday

We’ve had almost a whole week of sunny weather, so at least one of the NASA satellites got a picture for five days running.

I was hoping to put them together as an animated gif or a slide show, but it didn’t work well.

I’ll just show them in reverse order so you can compare.

If you need help getting oriented, go to the last one, May 3, and click on it. You’ll see a version with some landmarks labelled.

May 7.

May 6.

May 5.

May 4.

May 3.

The amount of progress in five days is impressive. The amount of open water is very different in the first and last pictures. But it’s the steady change in the colour (and strength) of the ice that is most important.

While we’re looking at things from overhead, Tom Lindstrom went cruising by in an airliner today and took a series of pictures from the cockpit. Many of them turned out kind of dark; I think his camera was dazzled by the brightness of the ice. I’ve enhanced the contrast on these two to improve the difference between islands and water, so they look a little odd, and the ice colour is not correct.

You can click on these pictures to see a larger version. Then zoom in, because these pictures are big

Kenora waters.

This picture covers everything from Kenora a the top left, to Second Channel at the bottom right. Zoom in and you can see the last patch of candled ice in Kenora Bay.

From Safety Bay to Bigstone Bay.

This second shot includes a wider area. Bigstone Bay is at the top right, Middle Island and Scotty Island are near the corner, Welcome Channel and Poplar Bay are halfway down the right side, and White Partridge is at the bottom.

The weather:

We hit at least 20°C yesterday, and it’s 22°C as I write this, exceeding both the forecast highs and seasonal averages. But just so you know, the record high for this date is 31.7°, set in 1953!

Now we’re supposed to get a couple of days of rain. Because weekend. But wet weather is not entirely bad. High humidity can have a powerful melting effect on ice. This is due to the energy released when water vapour condenses onto ice or snow. The humidity actually does more damage than the rain.

However, the rainy weather means we won’t get any satellite coverage until Tuesday, and it may not be good enough for my pilot friends to take pictures, either. So we’ll have a bit of an information blackout for a few days. If you go boating, you could use the comments form on the ABOUT page to let us know how you made out, and how far you got.

Signs of Spring:

I finally found time to put my summer tires on today.

Flies are out. Midges will be next, I think, and a friend mentioned that with all this standing water, the mosquitoes may get off to a roaring start this year.

I can’t find a bulletin on a planned date for the removal of the Coney Island pedestrian bridge yet. It gets scheduled for removal when the ice clears out between Kenora and Devil’s Gap, leaving the bridge as the only obstacle to boat traffic. That hasn’t happened yet.

 

May 6, 2022: Fresh Aerials

Justin Martin, my former Chief Pilot, was flying again today and had time to snap a few quick shots.

So here’s the speed tour. You can click on these pictures to see them enlarged.

Looking west over Laurenson’s Lake.

Note that Laurenson’s Lake is still frozen. There is actually a little water at the east end, off the bottom of the picture.

Devil’s Gap and Treaty Island.

Ice is yielding at both the inlet (left) and outlet (right) sides of Devil’s gap now. Open water is spreading into Rat Portage Bay, although Gun Club Island, as usual, is staying iced in a bit longer.

The plane swung left a little to show the Manitou better.

Town Island and the Manitou.

Following Keewatin Channel out to the Manitou is one of the main ways to reach open water from Kenora, and it opens earlier than Devil’s Gap. I think next week Scotty Island will be reachable by boat.

Big Narrows and Wiley Point.

Open water continues to expand all around Big Narrows. Looks like Wiley Point is getting its toes wet now.

The Barrier Islands, seen from the south side.

Justin took several pictures of the Barrier Islands area around the Elbow. I like this one best because you can see how the water is reaching north towards Middle Island and (eventually) town. The big patch of water at the left is the Elbow, and if you zoom in you can see that things are improving at French Narrows on the right.

Now that the ice is turning grey, the pressure ridges really stand out.

Thanks Justin!

Another sunny day, another MODIS shot. I think Aqua got better light quality than Terra today.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Aqua satellite, May 6, 2022, in false colour.

Open water continues to expand, and ice is softening all over the lake. It looks as if shorelines may be letting go, especially in the south half of the lake.

Signs of Spring:

On Kenora Bay, the ice is completely candled now. It will be gone very soon.

Motorcycles. I saw three today, and just heard another. Remember, riders need to avoid both potholes and patches of loose sand. Give them room in case they have to brake or evade.

Ticks. Found my first tick today, on my belly after walking Ebony. Yay.

Ebony gets refreshed after overheating.

No ticks on her, though, we checked. This is important because of Lyme Disease, which took the life of Piper, our previous dog. There’s a now a new option in tick preventative pills. Ask your vet.

May 4, 2022: Startling Change

I had a chance to go flying today. Quinn Wilson, one of my former colleagues, was able to take me for a flight in one of MAG Canada’s Rockwell Aero Commander 500s.

We went for a tour of the northern half of the lake. I took quite a lot of pictures, and here’s a selection of the most informative.

You can click on these photos to see a larger, zoomable version.

Rat Portage Bay and Safety Bay.

The usual shot taken shortly after take-off. At the left edge, Rat Portage Bay is showing an increased amount of open water; it approaches Gun Club Island now.

We flew west to check out Clearwater Bay.

Clearwater Bay and Deception Bay.

Most of Clearwater and Ptarmigan are still frozen over.

Deception Bay.

But there is some open water around the marina in Deception Bay.

Ash Rapids.

I wanted a closer look at Ash Rapids to see if there was more open water than yesterday. I think yes, a little.

Southwest end of Big Narrows.

Big Narrows is practically wide open now. Of course, the routes to it are still frozen.

Wiley Point.

From Big Narrows, the open water has spread as far as Wiley Point.

From there, we cruised over to look at the Barrier Islands.

Crow Rock Pass.

Spotted some open water at Crow Rock Pass, and there’s a tiny bit near Twelve Mile Portage, too.

The Elbow.

Developments around the Elbow look more dramatic. I’m sure there’s more open water here than in Justin’s pictures from just thirty hours earlier.

Queer Island and French Narrows.

And where we saw weakening ice yesterday, there are growing patches of open water around Queer Island.

Next, over to Bigstone Bay.

Eagle Pass.

There’s still just a very small patch of water at Eagle Pass.

Scotty Island, Nanton Island, Town Island.

I’m keeping a close eye on the waters approaching Scotty Island, as this is an area of dynamic change. I think there’s a visible difference since yesterday.

Lastly, a look at Devil’s gap from the Rogers Island side.

Rogers Island and Devil’s Gap.

Ice in this area always holds out longer than you’d expect. In fact, this very spot was the reason Ice Patrol started in the first place,  But there is noticeable change here, too, as the water opens up towards Galt Island.

I hope to go flying with Quinn again in a few days. Thanks, Quinn!

In summary, there was a surprising amount of change in one day. Patches of rotten ice opened up dramatically, and most areas with open water saw at least a little expansion.

The latest MODIS image bears that out.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Aqua satellite, May 4, 2022, in false colour.

Here’s the matching shot from yesterday.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Terra satellite, May 3, 2022, in false colour.

Black patches of open water seem larger in today’s image. Although the lake is still about 95% ice-covered, whole swaths of that ice have turned darker, indicating that it is thinning or weakening.

The weather: tomorrow we might see above normal temperatures for the first time in weeks. The Weather Network says a high of 16°C, slightly above seasonal norms of around 15. Environment Canada thinks we might make it to 18°C. Friday’s supposed to be similar, but the weather will be a few degrees cooler on the weekend, and rain is expected to start on Saturday night and last a few days. I was recently reminded by retired meteorologist Louis Legal, that it’s not the actual rain that destroys ice. It’s the high humidity that comes with the rain, and the energy transferred when water vapour condenses onto snow or ice. So I expect rapid change for the next few days. We could be approaching a turning point.

The Lake of the Woods Control Board has announced that the Norman Dam will soon be going wide open. You can read the full announcement at the preceding link, but the gist of it is that there was record precipitation in April, so the lake has been rising fast and will continue to do so. The lake is already at 95th percentile levels, and it is predicted to reach the highest allowable levels by mid-May. Even at maximum flow, the dam cannot drain the lake as fast as it is filling up, so the dam will be opening all the way on May 7, in an attempt to get a head start.

Signs of spring: Loons are back. I thought I spotted some yesterday, but today I was able to confirm it with Derek, an experienced birder who has seen and heard them clearly. Oh, I guess that’s another sign of spring: the birders must be getting more active, because I met two today. On a more urban level, the street-sweepers are out. This also sparks joy, but in a less poetic way.

April 28, 2022: Aerial Photos

My old friend Tom Hutton went flying on over the lake yesterday, and took a whole set of pictures for us.

You can still count the open patches of water on Lake of the Woods on your fingers, but let’s go have a look at some of them.

You can click on these pictures to see a larger, zoomable version.

Kenora, with Rat Portage Bay in the middle and Safety Bay to the right.

Okay, everybody in town knows there’s open water on Safety Bay.

Here’s a closer look at what’s open in Keewatin Channel and Second Channel.

Keewatin Channel and Second Channel. White Partridge Bay in the distance.

We’ve covered this key area in more detail with Paul Leischow’s drone panoramas, but here’s an overview that puts it in perspective.

What about further south than this. Is the ice letting go around Town Island yet?

Town Island at the lower right, Thompson Island in the middle and Wolf Island up and to the left.

It’s starting to look pretty rotten here, where the current flows into Keewatin Channel. But there’s still a whole lot of snow-covered ice out in the Manitou, and well, everywhere. That’s Shoal Lake way off in the distance.

Now a look at the Barrier Islands, because this is the next closest place to Kenora where we can expect to see open water in the early stages of the thaw.

Looking West from the Eastern Peninsula along the Barrier Islands. Square Island* is at the lower right.

There’s a fair-sized expanse of water at the Elbow. French Narrows, at the western tip of the Eastern Peninsula has just a tiny patch. You’ll have to zoom in to see it well. It’s just left of centre in this picture.

*Square Island is not square in shape. It is shaped like a carpenter’s square.

How about down at the south end of the lake?

Looking south from near the Northwest Angle. Birch Island, Oak Island and Flag Island span the picture at the edge of the Big Traverse.

Big Traverse is still ice-covered, but the photo above shows quite a lot of open water along the west side of Falcon Island.

Big Narrows is always worth checking on.

Looking east over Big Narrows.

We saw some low-altitude views of this area from Scott Benson yesterday. In some of those pictures, the slanting evening light made some of the ice resemble water. Here’s how it looks from a higher viewpoint, and the daylight makes the extent of the water very clear.

Lastly, as Tom headed back towards the airport, he took a look at Devil’s Gap.

Devil’s Gap.

This wasn’t clearly visible in the first photo, but you can see that there’s only small penetration of water into Rat Portage Bay, and everything out towards Bigstone Bay is pretty solid.

Thanks, Tom!

Signs of spring: pre-season training for the water-bomber pilots.

Tanker practicing on Safety bay, as seen from Norman Beach.

You might recall that a recent photo showed no open water on Wabigoon Lake, close to Dryden’s big Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources base. Every spring, tanker crews come to Kenora to train on either Safety Bay or the Winnipeg River.

April 4, 2022: Fresh Aerial Photos

Please join me in welcoming a new contributor, freshly licenced pilot Joel Wiebe. He flies a vintage 1953 Cessna 170B, and has a camp out on Middle Island, so I look forward to pictures of that area from him in the near future.

In the meantime, today’s pictures are of Keewatin Channel, Rat Portage Bay and Safety Bay. Why is there so much emphasis on this area right now? Well, for one thing, it’s where the water is. Nearly everything else is frozen, and if you’ve seen one stretch of lake ice, you’ve seen them all.

Poplar Bay and Holmstrom’s Marsh, in the foreground, Keewatin Channel in the centre of the picture.

You can click on these pictures to see a larger version. I had to compress the images a little to upload them, because modern digital cameras, including the ones on smartphones, create very large image files.

Rat Portage Bay, with the open water of Safety Bay in the middle distance.

Thanks, Joel.

This is the second post on Ice Patrol today. There is an update to the previous post. Scroll down past Paul Leischow’s first drone panorama, and if you don’t see the word UPDATE in bold red text, hit refresh on your browser. The updated version now includes a link to Paul’s matching panorama from exactly one year earlier.

Two Ice Patrol posts in one day must be a sign that things are heating up.

Signs of spring: I saw five Canada geese today. I think I might have seen some gulls, but they were too far away to be sure.

Ice Patrol Advanced User Tip:

When I wanted to find the Ice Patrol post with Paul’s drone panorama from last year, I used the search tool on the right-hand sidebar. Entering “drone” or “Leischow” in the search field gave me a list of posts, showing the first sentences of each and offering a Read More option.

This tool works on anything I’ve tagged, and I apply a lot of tags to each post. This entry has tags for Poplar Bay, Holmstrom’s Marsh, The Tangle, Joel Wiebe and so on.

You can use this method to hunt down posts about your favourite part of the lake.

One more reason to visit the Ice Patrol website, even if your primary approach is to subscribe to the email list.

April 4, 2022: A Drone Panorama

Paul Leischow has sent us another drone panorama. I say another because he sent one at roughly this time last year. 

But first let’s see the one from yesterday. It was taken from over Gourlay Island, and the 360° panning view shows nearby Yacht Club Island, as well as a good look at Safety Bay and Keewatin Channel.

Drone panoramic view by Paul Leischow.

If you click on the picture above, you’ll be taken to the video version, which pans slowly around. Better yet, you can control it with your mouse: you can swing around, pan up and down, and even zoom in.

I have to say, there’s not a lot of open water yet. 

I wanted to include a link to Paul’s comparable drone panorama from last year, but instead of taking me to the video from April 10th, it now connects to a version from April 24th, 2021.   Although that’s weeks later, I have to say the difference is dramatic. 

UPDATE:

Paul has sent me a fresh link to his drone panorama from early April of last year.

Taken on the same date from the same spot, the comparison to the panorama at the top of this entry is fascinating. Also, the weather was nicer, so it’s pretty.

Fortunately, we have warmer weather coming, and this week may finally see us reach the Inflection Point.

March 23, 2022: Colin Napper

We have our first aerial photos of the year. Colin Napper went flying with Connor Ward in Connor’s Grumman Cheetah on Sunday. He had some trouble sending the pictures (uploading full-size pictures often causes a smart-phone to time out or give up.) so I didn’t get them until today.

Anyway, here’s what the lake looks like near town, as of Sunday, March 20th.

Looking west over Rat Portage Bay, with Kenora in the foreground and Safety Bay and Keewatin at the right.

You can click on these images to see them full-size and zoomable.

Note that there’s not a lot of open water, even in Safety Bay. In past years, I wouldn’t have started taking pictures until Safety Bay was open from shore to shore. If you’re wondering about the rest of the lake, fuggetaboutit. It’s ice.

This is Second Channel, looking northwest with Keewatin visible at the upper right.

And hello, what’s this?

A rare sighting of the elusive March Boater.

So a big thank-you to Colin and Connor for sending these along. I hope they’ll become regular contributors. Feel free to thank them in the comments.

Speaking of regulars, I have heard from some of my other flying friends.

Bruce White, who flies Boeing 777’s has said he’ll take pictures when he passes over. 

Josh Broten, who has been sending in pictures from his Cub for years now, has a fancy new plane. His Arion Lightning will let him travel over the lake faster.

Oh, and one last photo for fun. Sean Cockrem, the graph guy, had to snap this picture at a Winnipeg Jets game this winter. 

OHO! What’s that on that guy’s phone? The pancake graph!

Sean was amazed to see this in the audience. Someone explaining the Ice Patrol Pancake Graph to their friend. I’m delighted. Big shout out to these guys, whoever they are!

And now that the topic of graphs has come up, here’s a look at one of Sean’s. He’s been monitoring this winter closely because of how cold it was.

You can click on the graph, too, for a larger and sharper view.

 

This is a comparative graph that shows the Cumulative Freezing Index* for different years in different colours. By putting them together as an overlay, you can see how the winters since 2012 stack up. The fat dashed line represents this winter. Two things stand out. First, the only winter with worse numbers by this date was 2014, which was a brute. Second, the winter’s not over yet: in most years, we’re still making ice in March. One ray of hope, our recent warm temperatures clearly show as that uptick at the lower end of this year’s line.

*The Cumulative Freezing Index is a simple measure of how cold it’s been.

If the daily mean temperature was -5°C yesterday, the line grows downward by 5 points. If it’s +3°C today, the line swings up by 3 points.

Naturally, most years show steep drops in January, and start levelling off in March. This winter shows deep cold driving the line down in both January and February. If you were here, you’ll remember why.

I asked Sean if he thought we could have hit the Inflection Date** with our recent warm weather. He says it’s possible, but it’s quite common to see a warm spell give way to lingering cold weather. He’ll feel more confident when we see what kind of temperatures we get in the next week or two. They’re forecasting a cold weekend, with temperatures dropping as low as -17°C and highs of -9°C or thereabouts. After that, we’ll be getting close to April, and can hope for milder weather.

**Inflection Date is the date when the Daily Mean Temperature rises above freezing on a lasting basis. Right now, we’re waiting to see if it lasts. At Ice Patrol, we consider the inflection date to be the start of the lake’s thaw.

For perspective, average temperatures for this time of year are highs of around zero and lows of about -9°C. So when we were hitting highs of 10°, that was a bonus, and that’s why it stands out on the graph.

Okay, that’s all for now.

April 6, 2021: Andy Zabloski

Tom Hutton and Andy Zabloski were out in one of the MAG Canada King Airs today, and Andy snapped some aerial photos for us.

You can click on these to see a larger, full screen version.

Downtown Kenora, Rat Portage Bay, Safety Bay.

Yesterday’s sunshine and heat (we topped out at 17°C) did a number on the ice along the Kenora waterfront. Kenora Bay, where the MS Kenora and the Whitecap Pavillion are,  is ice free this afternoon, and Safety Bay, in the middle of the photograph, is almost entirely open. Rat Portage Bay, on the left, is usually slower to melt, but the ice looks really rotten.

Rat Portage Bay, Gun Club Island, Keewatin Channel.

This second shot looks slightly south of west. Treaty Island dominates the foreground, with Rat Portage Bay to the right and Gun Club Island  at the right side. The water near the middle of the picture is Keewatin Channel, and you can see that the open water there extends past Anglican Island to Crowe Island and Forrest Island.

Holmstrom’s Marsh, the Manitou, the Barrier Islands.

Facing south, and looking over Holmstrom’s March across the Manitou to the Barrier Islands. At the left edge of the frame is the western tip of Scotty Island, and at the right side are the Slate Islands, and at the very edge is one of Whiskey Island’s points. The ice on the Manitou is always slow to go, but it’s very vulnerable to wind once it starts to break apart.

The Elbow, Allie Island, Mather Island.

Here’s a closer look at the Barrier Islands, facing south east. This water is in the Elbow, between Allie Island at the left and Mather Island at the right. Each of the narrow gaps in this chain of large islands has significant current.

It’s amazing what one really warm day can do. The waterfront at Norman has been completely transformed since yesterday. Today was nice, too, but it looks as if we’re going to max out at 11°C today, and then we have some interesting weather coming. Wednesday and Thursday will be cooler and rainy, then the weekend will pick up to slightly above normal temperatures.  However, most of next week will be below normal, and flurries are in the forecast. Temperatures bottom out next Wednesday when we’ll barely creep above freezing.  A normal high this time of year is about 7°C, and overnight lows would typically be about -3°C. After that cool spell, it looks like we’ll be heading back to  temperatures close to or slightly better than normal.

Out of that mixed bag, the rain is on our side. Snow would be bad if it persisted as a reflective white layer on the ice, but my guess is it’ll mostly turn to slush right away.

Signs of spring: I saw a water-bomber yesterday. The MNR’s spring training has probably begun, and Kenora offers some of the first big stretches of open water.

Because it’s been such a dry spring, the forest fire hazard is medium to high, and there are actually three active fires in the Northwest Ontario region. None of them are what you’d call headline news, but you can find more info at this MNR website.

April 4, 2021: Shoal Lake to Kenora

Some new aerial photographs from Josh Broten, and also the first drone picture of the year, taken by George Dyker over Clytie Bay, a popular cottage area on Shoal Lake. All were taken Saturday.

Let’s start with Josh’s overview of Shoal.

You can click on these pictures to see them full screen and full size.

Northwest Angle, Shoal Lake.

Looking north from over the Northwest Angle towards Shoal Lake. Lots of water and only pan ice in the Angle. In the distance, the ice looks poor on Shoal.

Monument Bay, Shoal Lake.

Here’s a slightly closer look at Shoal, with the camera pointing north west over Monument Bay, so that Shoal Lakes large Dominique and Stevens Island appear side by side. Mason Lake and part of Reid Lake are a the right side of the frame.

Now George Dyker’s drone shot of Clytie Bay on Shoal. George operates a DJI drone.

Shoal Lake’s Clytie Bay.

This view looks south west, with the open water at Gateway Point in the foreground. That ice road that heads off onto the main body of the lake looks to be in one piece, but it’s riddled with cracks.

Now, back to our tour with Josh’s Cub, picking things up at the south end of the lake, where Josh is based.

Oak Island, Flag Island, Brush Island.

We’re back by the NW Angle, looking at the area by the international border. The open water is mainly by Flag Island, which has a webcam, by the way. You can find a link to it on the Lake of the Woods Links sidebar.*

*When viewed on a desktop or large tablet, Ice Patrol offers a number of features on a sidebar to the right of the main column. These include Recent Comments, a Search Tool, a Flag Counter, the Archive Tool, and an extensive list of links that may be of interest to lake dwellers and visitors.  However, if you’re in the habit of viewing Ice Patrol on a phone, or via the email subscriber list, you may not see the sidebar.

Also a link to my writing blog. Support me by buying my SF novel, AVIANS. It’s about girl power, alternative aviation, and volcanoes! E-book and trade paperbacks available. Averaging 4.5% stars last time I checked.

Oak Point, Big Narrows.

Looking south. The patch of open water in the foreground is right at Oak Point, and there’s open water almost all the way through Big Narrows. At the left, on the far side of Big Narrows Island and Tranquil Channel, there’s some open water through French Portage Narrows.

Chisholm Island, Cliff Island.

Looking north west, with Chisholm Island at the bottom of the frame, and Cliff Island at the left. The Alneau Peninsula is just off the picture to the left, and the Barrier Islands are near the upper right corner. Prominent pressure ridges show the strain on the ice.

Let’s finish Josh’s tour with a shot of the Kenora area.

Poplar Bay, Keewatin Channel, Rat Portage Bay.

Centered on Keewatin Channel, this picture looks north east towards Rat Portage Bay, Safety Bay and Kenora. Poplar Bay is in the lower left corner.

The ice is weakening, slowly but steadily. Warm temperatures all week, with daily highs in the double digits, should help.

In the meantime, a reminder. Ontario went back into a province-wide lockdown on Saturday, April 3rd, and is expected to stay that way for a four week “emergency brake.” Hairdressers are closed, restaurants are take-out only, and stores are restricted to half or quarter occupancy, depending on how essential they are. More details here.

 

 

March 26, 2021: Mid-altitude overview

This photo was taken by Simeon Kubassek, who is flying for Air Bravo during his lay-off from Air Canada, where he flew Boeing 777’s. I love to get occasional shots from the mid-altitudes—high enough to need a pressurized plane, but not as high as the jets—because they show lots of terrain without too much haze.

You can click on this picture to see it full screen, and that version is zoomable.

This photograph shows the Manitou in the foreground, with the Northern Peninsula at the left, and the Barrier Islands at the lower right, near the little patch of window frame. Notable in that latter area is new open water that seems to be expanding  at the Elbow.

The Manitou, Northern Peninsula and Barrier Islands.

Zoom in for a better look at the open water in Keewatin Channel (left of center), and Safety Bay (further left).

Another interesting set of features are some prominent pressure ridges in the Manitou. Check out the white lines around Whiskey Island; they are quite distinct from the ice roads, which usually show grey ice between the twin snowbanks.

In case you missed it, I made an update to yesterday’s post to include an updated “Pancake Graph.” More formally called the Inflection to Thaw Calendar, it compares the beginning and completion dates of recent year’s thaws. The latest version shows how our current spring is stacking up. Spoiler: it’s early but perhaps not rapid. Scroll down to see the previous post, or click here.