May 12, 2022: It’s All Going

I wasn’t expecting pictures today because of the heavy rainfall warning. But the weather has been better than expected so far, and I received three great sets.

Before we start with the pictures, the comments form is overflowing with people reporting that various places are open, or opening fast.

Let’s back those assertions up with some evidence. First up, aerial photos from James Hendy at River Air. He’s another of my former colleagues from decades ago.

You can click on these pictures to see larger versions that reveal more detail.

James started at Poplar Bay.

Poplar Bay.

It’s partly open, but there’s ice at the south end. Let’s take a closer look.

Poplar Bay, Welcome Channel, Wolf Island, Hare Island.

Next, James cruised out to the Manitou. The first view looks roughly south.

 

The Manitou. Whisky Island at the right, Barrier Islands in the distance.

Still ice here, and the ice roads haven’t broken apart yet. The Manitou is one of the last places to let go, but once things reach this stage of soft ice, it’s very vulnerable to wind.

Looking more to the south west shows the western stretch of the Manitou.

West Manitou. Crow Rock Island at the upper centre.

Then back towards Kenora. The ability to reach Scotty Island is a key milestone in boat access.

 

Scotty Island in the distance.

I’ve heard from BB Camps that Town Island is accessible, and it looks like you can make it to Scotty Island now. More about the beach there, later.

Thanks, James!

Our second set of photos come from contributor Scott Benson.

Over Sugar Bay looking east down Clearwater Bay. It’s open water west of here. Frozen east and south.

Scotty’s beach in foreground looking east over Bigstone Bay.

That beach is looking pretty waterlogged. I like the little cluster of ice-road fragments, though.

Looking north over Shammis Island where the main ice road crosses. This area of the lake is 90+% ice at this point.

I’ve said it before, but the ice roads are the last things to let go. This broken one shows how close we are to total ice-out.

Over Ash Bay looking east at the grouping of islands including S Island and north up Corkscrew Channel. Open around S island and frozen to the east towards Whiskey island.

There’s still quite a lot of ice out there, but it’s almost all candled. Basically it’s just fancy ice cubes (well, hexagons, actually) floating around and keeping each other company.

Just west of Victoria Island looking north at Mud Portage, and Woodchuck/Deception bays in the distance. Woodchuck and Deception are ice free.

Over the entrance to Echo bay looking east down Ptarmigan Bay, Zig Zag island in the center. Ice free north of Zig Zag island.

Looking south east at Echo Bay. About 1/2 open water.

West Hawk Lake. This ice has been pushed around by the wind for the past 3 days and won’t last long.

I have had at least one report that West Hawk Lake is wide open. Consider that if an observer was standing on the far shore, they would not be able to see this ice remnant on the west side.

Looking south over Shoal Lake. Some areas open (maybe 5-10%) ice in the middle looks white, the strongest ice I spotted today.

Oh, good. I just had someone asking about Shoal Lake. Typically, Shoal Lake’s ice lasts a few days longer than it does on Lake of the Woods. There’s a pretty big pan there, but I don’t think it will last through the weekend.

Scott was kind enough to write captions for his pictures, saving me a lot of work. Thanks, Scott!

But wait, there’s more.

Here’s a picture  of the ice at Clearwater Bay from Brendon Thiessen that came in while I was writing this post.

This was taken at 2pm today (12/05/2022). Looking Northwest from Big Duck Island toward Sugar Bay.

Brendon was using a drone to check on his docks, (they’re fine) and sent me this to show the ice. Thanks, Brendon!

I’ll finish with a set of aerial photos from MAG Canada’s Justin Martin.

We’ll start with Northern Harbour, because I’ve been curious about it for a  couple of days.

Pine Portage Bay, Sultana Island and Bald Indian Bay.

There’s water around the docks now, but before you phone Northern Harbour, take note that there’s not actually a clear route out of Pine Portage Bay yet.

From Bare Point, Looking west towards Treaty Island.

It looks as if you could take a boat out through Devil’s Gap now. There’s still a lot of pan ice, though, so you’d want to be careful not to get trapped.

Middle Island and Scotty Island.

The same applies if you try to go beyond Scotty Island. Large pans of ice, moving around because of wind and current. South of the Barrier Islands, those sheets are massive. We’ll take a closer look in a minute.

But first, Corkscrew Island, Ptarmigan Bay and Clearwater Bay.

 

Corkscrew Island, looking west towards Zigzag Island.

Now the Barrier Islands, and the huge ice sheet south of them.

East Allie Island and Allie Island, looking over those Barrier Islands at the ice to the south.

Most years, that ice covered area is the last to go. Small pans of this may survive for several more days.

Thanks for these, Justin!

This last shot from Justin is a little different.

Judging by the Kenora Airport in the background, this is the Essex Road. As you can see, a lengthy stretch of it is underwater.

This is not the only road in the region to be flooded or washed out. The problem in this location is that the Winnipeg River is now higher than the Black Sturgeon Lakes, causing their water levels to rise.

It’s raining as I write this, and we have another heavy rainfall warning, so water levels in the whole drainage basin of Lake of the Woods are sure to continue rising.

As far as the ice is concerned, it’s melting everywhere, and it’s melting fast. It won’t be long now.

 

 

April 27, 2022: Clear Skies

After several days of poor weather, skies finally lifted yesterday. That brought the aerial photographers out.

Tom Lindstrom, one of my airline pilot friends, was passing overhead in a 737 yesterday, and although Kenora was covered by cloud when he went by, he found Dryden in the clear.

Here’s a look at how things are going on Wabigoon Lake.

You can click on this picture to see a much larger, zoomable version.

The only open water I can see is in the Wabigoon River. Even the smaller lakes around the Dryden Regional Airport are still ice-covered. This shows that we are still at the stage where melting is only happening due to water flow.

Tom Lindstrom has contributed photos to Ice Patrol before, and knew I was anxious for fresh shots this spring. Thanks, Tom!

We also have a new contributor. Scott Benson has been an Ice Patrol follower for years, and yesterday he sent me photographs of Lake of the Woods taken from his Piper PA-12 on skis.

You can click on these pictures to see much larger, zoomable versions.

Looking East across Big Narrows, with the twin fingers of Ferris Island near the centre of the shot.

Don’t be fooled by the subtle difference between ice and water in the distance. If you zoom in for a closer look, it’s almost all ice.

Tranquil Channel, looking north at De Noyon Island. Big Narrows Island stretches out from under the wing strut, and there’s more open water to the north of it, in the main channel.

There’s a clear pattern here. There’s only open water in passages with current. The vast majority of the lake is still ice-covered.

Redwater Bay, south of Tranquil Channel, looking east. The current has opened a little water around Kennedy Island.

The west end of Long Bay, with part of Yellow Girl Bay at the right edge. Most of these islands are nameless on my charts, except for Pewabic Island near the right edge.

Tom Bowman was the first person to specify the exact location of this photo.

Water at the north west end of Yellow Girl Bay. South Strawberry Island is at the left edge, and Fog Island is in the distance above the centre of the frame.

Several people pitched in to help me figure out the location for this photo. Thanks to Jim Richardson, David Lindstrom and Doug LeBlanc for pointing me to Yellow Girl Bay. That led me to nearby parts of Long Bay to figure out the previous picture.

Thanks, Scott. I hope you’ll send more pictures in the coming weeks.

Now, let’s talk about how the thaw is progressing. We’ve been basically stalled for a month, with little progress during April. To illustrate that point, let’s compare yesterday’s satellite images to one from a month ago.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Aqua satellite, April 26, 2022.

 

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Aqua satellite, March 26, 2022.

Yes, there’s a little more open water now, but in many years, the change during that month would have been profound. Sometimes, total.

Okay, so it’s been cold recently. What about looking forward? The good news is, we’ve probably arrived at the Inflection Date. Finally. The seven day forecast says we’ll have above-freezing temperatures every day, and we could flirt with double-digit highs for a few of those days. Nighttime lows will be nearly always above freezing, but not by much.

That means the air temperatures will be mild enough to start actually melting ice, and it’s about time. The sun’s rays are powerful this time of year, and the days are long, so I hope to see steady progress. That’s the good news.

Working against us are two significant factors. One, it was a long, cold winter, and we probably still have a lot of ice. Two, the refreshingly mild temperatures in our forecast are not all that warm compared to seasonal norms. An average high for today’s date would be 12.6°C. The record high, set in 1952, was 28.9°C!

The long-term forecast holds out hope for some slightly better than average temperatures starting around May 5th, but the best number on there so far is a shot at hitting 15°C on one day. That’s not exactly a heat wave.

So if we have to thaw the entire lake with only so-so warmth, it’s still going to take some time. I heard from Sean Cockrem yesterday, and he’s all set to start graphing the data based on today as Inflection. I look forward to seeing his prediction, but even with the tendency of late thaws to move fast, I’m not expecting a miracle.