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.

 

April 30, 2022: Satellite Saturday

Well, it’s raining again. We’re setting records for April precipitation as I write this.

That means the last couple of days haven’t been good for satellite photos, but we got an exceptionally good look at the lake on Wednesday. Sentinel 2 is a European Space Agency satellite that takes high resolution pictures. It doesn’t come our way every day, and when it does, it often images only part of the lake because of it’s narrow field of view.

But on Wednesday, everything aligned.

You can click on these pictures to see them at higher resolution!

Sentinel 2 image of Lake of the Woods, in true colour.

Yes, that’s a colour photo. There’s just not a lot of green in our landscape yet.

But if you’d like something a bit more vibrant, Sentinel 2 also offers a short-wave infrared option.

Sentinel 2 image of Lake of the Woods, in short-wave infrared.

Note the scale (5km) in the bottom right corner. But wait, there’s more good news. This satellite can show more detail than this. I can’t upload a picture of the whole lake at the highest resolution; the file is too big. But I can zoom in for a better look at the north part of the lake, and upload that.

Don’t forget to click on these images to see the full-screen version. Click on that to see the picture’s full resolution.

Sentinel 2 image of the northern part of Lake of the Woods in short-wave infrared.

So on this image, I thought I noticed something. In a recent aerial photo from Tom Hutton, taken the same day, you could see rotten ice south of the Keewatin Channel, extending past Town Island towards Scotty.

Let’s zoom in even tighter on that area, to a 1km scale.

Sentinel 2 image of the Wendigo and Bigstone Bay in short-wave infrared.

Now we can clearly see the dark blotches of softening ice, extending from the open water in Keewatin Channel and Second Channel at the upper left, towards Scotty Island near the middle of the frame.

This is the ice that I expect to yield next.

It’s also worth noting that there are multiple tiny patches of water visible in the vicinity of Middle Island, at Eagle Pass at the east end of Hay Island, and near Railroad Island, south of Hay.

Rapidly rising lake levels, and more importantly, the increasing outflows through the Norman Dam* that the rising water necessitates, should help to erode more ice, starting in these areas with significant currents.

*The Lake of the Woods Control Board strives to keep the lake levels within specified limits. A month ago, the lake was pretty low. Multiple Colorado lows have dumped a lot of first snow, and then rain in the lake’s drainage basin. The board reports that the average lake level has been rising by over an inch a day, (25cm in a week) and will continue at close to that rate for several more days. In the meantime, outflow through the dam has gone from 450 cubic metres per second three weeks ago to more than double that, at 925. Fun fact: a cubic metre of fresh water masses one tonne.

So enjoy the rain!

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.

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 10, 2021: Satellite Saturday / Multiple Contributors

Okay, this is going to be a long post, because several people sent me stuff.

But first, the week’s big news.

Ontario has gone back into lockdown, and this time it includes a stay-at-home order.

Here’s the wording from the alert that popped up on my phone:

A stay-at-home order is in effect. Only leave home for essential purposes such as food, health care, vaccines, exercise or work. It’s the law. Stay home, save lives.

And here’s a link to some more detailed information.

I have not found any specific wording about visiting summer residences in the new order. I have enquired, but it may take a while to get a response. The old rules from the previous lockdown were that you could: A) visit your camp for up to 24 hours to perform necessary maintenance, in which case you cannot be in contact with anyone, or B) isolate for 14 days, so you’d have to bring gas and food with you to last for for two weeks before you could go shopping.

It gets more complicated if you are visiting from Manitoba, as you might also have to isolate for 14 days upon your return, but I’ve been told this needn’t apply as long as you adhere to the Ontario requirements while here.

Here’s an excerpt from the Manitoba government website that was updated on April 8:

As per the public health order, 14 days of self-isolation is required for people returning or coming to Manitoba from all jurisdictions.

Now back to a more comfortable topic: the weather. The NASA satellites got good images on April 6, and then it turned cloudy until today.

Here’s what things looked like on Tuesday the 6th.

If you click on this image, you’ll see a version with some landmarks tagged.

Aqua satellite’s MODIS image from April 6, 2021, in false colour.

Today’s images haven’t been uploaded yet.

In the meantime, I have a picture from Devon Ostir, whose dock cam on Hare Island looks out on the Manitou.

With the exception of the satellite imagery, you can click on today’s pictures to see a full-screen version that is zoomable.

Next up, a drone shot of Keewatin Channel, courtesy of Paul Leischow.

I chose this specific shot from over Crowe Island because it shows that the water is open all the way to Keewatin. Actually, there’s a whole 360° panorama, and you can view it here if you want to scope out Rat Portage Bay or the Tangle from this vantage point.

Now photos from Josh Broten, and they are very revealing.

Over Buffalo Bay looking east to Garden Island.

Looking east at the big ice patch between Garden, Big, and Oak Island.

Over Windfall Island looking north between Falcon Island and the Western Peninsula.

Looking SW over Bishop Bay with Shoal Lake in the distance.

Over Skeet Island looking NNE.

Over Yellow Girl Point looking SE down Long Bay.

Aside from the huge stretches of open water, the key point is that all over the south end of the lake, the ice has separated from the shore. It’s still in enormous sheets, but it will start to break apart into pans soon.

Further north, where there are more islands and less vast stretches of water, the progress does not look as dramatic, but it’s following a similar path.

In case you missed it, regular commenter Stu Everett pointed out the other day that when current through the lake is slow in  winter, the ice forms to a more even thickness all over the lake, and sets up a situation where the big slow-moving parts of the lake are melting almost as fast as the places that usually have more current.

Before I forget, special thanks to all the people who sent in pictures or messages today.

The first of today’s satellite images is available.

Terra satellite’s MODIS image for April 10, 2021, in false colour.

Pity about the cloud cover [low altitude cumulus clouds at the left, made of water vapour, high level cirrus clouds with more ice at the right] but you can see the same trend photographed by Josh.

UPDATE: Aqua’s image is up.

Aqua satellite’s MODIS image from April 10, 2021, in false colour.

Still some cloud, but it’s moved a little, revealing different parts of the lake.

The big question is: have we reached the tipping point? Once the ice breaks up, the end is very near, because wind action becomes a major factor. I think we’re almost there.

So naturally, the forecast is for some cool temperatures. The Weather Network has revised the fourteen day forecast since I last talked about it, and it now shows Monday as the coolest, with temps hovering around the freezing point all day. After that, daytime highs may run a little below normal for the next two weeks, while overnight lows are kind of 50/50.

Will the ice go? Your guess is as good as mine.