May 11, 2019: Satellite Saturday

Aqua didn’t get a perfect look at Lake of the Woods today, due to some high thin cloud, but Terra had an unobstructed view, and got a beautiful sharp image.

Here’s the false-colour version first:

The three large ice sheets seen yesterday—on Shoal Lake, in Little Traverse, and south of the Barrier Islands—have all shrunk dramatically. The smaller patch on Bigstone Bay seems to have gone completely.

Fun with clouds: the fair-weather cumulus clouds at the left edge of the frame are low: you can tell because their shadows are sharp and tight.* The big patch of cloud in the upper right corner is higher, and the shadow is softer and wider. The cotton-candy clouds at the lower right are higher altitude, so their shadows are fuzzy and widely separated. It’s cold up there; these clouds are blue because they are composed of ice.

*When I see drifting herds of clouds like these over the prairies, I call them buffalo ghosts.

Here’s the natural colour version of the same image:

The details of the lake don’t stand out as well, but the ice is very plain to see. Interestingly, the city of Kenora is easy to spot: look directly above the most northerly ice sheet, and you’ll see a sprawling beige area. That’s Kenora. Now that you know where to look, squint at the false-colour image, and you can make out our three suburban lakes: Rabbit, Round and Laurenson’s.

There’s a bit more to say about Bigstone Bay. Keep in mind that a sheet of ice a kilometre square would only be a tiny speck of four pixels on one of these satellite images, so absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

I got this comment from Jeff, who finally reached Hay Island this afternoon.

I made it to Hay, all of Bigstone ice free, except for some in front of Smith Camps, which that is likely gone by now or close to.

Smith Camps is located on Thunder Bay, just east of Pine Portage Bay and Heenan point.

I received this picture from Ted Main at about 3:00 this afternoon.

Ted says: Here is a picture from Thunder Ridge Road (Heenan point) facing north to Northern Harbour.

There are patches of candled ice in the foreground, and perhaps a more extensive sheet towards Pine Portage Bay in the distance.

A note on the weather: a week or so ago, the outlook was dismal, with temperatures expected to run consistently a little below normal until the second half of May. We did better than that today: we spent several hours at 19ºC this afternoon, which is actually slightly above normal for  mid-May. It was lovely. I got the patio furniture out, and we had drinks on the deck. The Weather Network’s 14-day forecast now says that although daytime highs will run a little shy of normal, overnight lows will be on the mild side.


May 10, 2019: Almost There

Here’s today’s satellite image from Terra.

This picture’s a little blurry, but it’s clear enough to tell the tale. Shoal Lake is trying to hide under a cloud but there’s still ice in the main part of Shoal. On Lake of the Woods, a large sheet of ice survives on Little Traverse, and there’s a smaller sheet south of the Barrier Islands at the centre of the picture.  Just above that is Hay Island’s distinctive “battleaxe” shape and although I thought Bigstone Bay might be fully open, there’s still a fuzzy blue patch there, representing weak ice.

There’s no longer any ice visible in the Clearwater Bay or Ptarmigan Bay areas, but anything less than a kilometre square (four pixels) would be invisible at this resolution.

May 8, 2019: Yesterday’s Satellite Images

I did fly today, but cloudy skies gave flat lighting that made it really hard to tell the difference between ice and water. Both just looked grey. I didn’t take any pictures.

I was so busy selecting and cropping photographs for the last two days that I didn’t have time to check on the satellite images. Both Aqua and Terra captured sharp images on May 7th. I’ve updated all the links under the SATELLITE PICTURES sidebar, but I’m going to show you the Aqua pictures here.

I’ll start with a labelled version to get you oriented.

Now the clean version so you can see the ice more clearly.

The lake has less than 50% ice cover now, with the strongest, brightest ice on the Little Traverse (where the letters OF THE appear on the labelled version.) Below that, Big Traverse has fractured ice, while above the Alneau Peninsula, there’s a wide expanse of ice as far north as the Barrier Islands. West of Lake of the Woods, it’s interesting to note that Shoal Lake still has plenty of ice, West Hawk Lake has weak ice, and Falcon Lake is open.

For comparison, here’s the natural colour version of the same image.

Although it’s harder to distinguish water from land, the white ice really stands out. Bigstone Bay is a good example, and so is Silver Lake. Subtler patches can be seen on Ptarmigan Bay, Clearwater Bay, and Andrew Bay.

Keep in mind that these images are from yesterday. There’s been some progress since then; I noticed today that ice on Lower Black Sturgeon has shrunk and drifted north with the current, and that’s just one place where I happened to get a good look.

In case you don’t read all the comments, here’s one from today by Stu Everett:

Was out in my boat today and managed to make it to Crow Rock. I did take a look out around the point and it seems clear down to Wiley Point. Can’t guarantee it is open to Wiley, it is sometimes hard to see the ice from water level, but it seems likely. The wind came up this afternoon so the trip back was less circuitous, some of the areas are quickly becoming ice free. You can see piles of ice up on the shore in many places, and where the ice is weak it is breaking up. It sure looks like some large areas are going to blow out today. I am confident that tomorrow will show many changes from the photos you took this AM. Here’s hoping!

I may not be flying again until Monday. By then I expect the ice to be nearly all gone.




May 7, 2019: Ding Dong, the Bridge is Gone

Caroline Armstrong texted me this morning to say the floating bridge to  Coney Island has been taken out. Here’s what it looked like from the Waterside dining room at the Clarion Inn.

This is a significant Sign of Spring, because the city removes the footbridge when the waterway is otherwise open from downtown Kenora through to Devil’s Gap.

This morning I departed from the Kenora airport without passengers, so I seized the opportunity to fly west to look at Clearwater Bay before turning on course.

You can click on any of today’s pictures to see a full-screen, zoomable version.

I’ll start with my standard shot of Rat Portage Bay and Safety Bay.

The only ice visible anywhere near the Kenora Harbourfront is that little patch by Gun Club Island, seen here in the distance above the windshield wiper arm.

We climbed westward, following the Trans-Canada past Woodlake Marine.

In this photo, White Partridge Bay is tucked in by the aircraft nose and wiper. Above the centre of the picture is the ice of Clearwater Bay, with Shoal Lake on the horizon.

This is as far west as we went, with the aircraft coming up on Corkscrew Island. Clearwater, at the right, is mostly ice-covered, but the shorelines are opening up. Zoom in for a look at Deception Bay, near the blurred propeller blade, or Woodchuck Bay, beyond Deception; they’re both open. At the left, by the wipers, Ptarmigan Bay is frozen all the way to Copper Island and Victoria Island.

As we began our turn on course, we got our best look at Shoal Lake.

Off the nose of the King Air are Echo Bay and Rush Bay; both are open, but if you zoom in, you can see a little floating ice pan on Rush Bay. Shoal Lake is top centre, and the ice isn’t covering the whole lake any more. North of Cash Island, Shoal Lake is open. Clytie Bay is partly open. Zoom in and look for the three finger-like points on Clytie’s north west shore; there’s ice to the south of them, and also on Bag Bay, next door.

We turned east to look at the Barrier Islands.

In this picture, the nose of the plane is on the Western Peninsula, with the Barrier Islands leading left. The big patch of water has spread out from The Elbow, between Mather Island and Allie Island. However, in this northern part of Lake of the Woods, there’s still more ice than open water. Whisky Island is at the left, partly chopped off at the edge of the frame.

We didn’t travel towards Sioux Narrows, but I did aim the camera south east.

This picture is centred roughly between Shore Island (half surrounded by water) and Ferrier Island (iced in). Beyond them you can see Long Bay stretching off to the left. It’s mostly open, although Yellow Girl Bay is still full of ice. At the top centre is Whitefish Bay, which is almost all ice.

That covers it for this morning’s pictures. I did take a couple on the way home. Yesterday’s pictures of Dryden weren’t very clear, so here’s a better shot of Wabigoon Lake.

As we approached Kenora, I was on the lookout for any significant developments, but it had only been about ten hours, and there really wasn’t much change.

So I’ll finish where I started, in downtown Kenora. Here’s a picture of where the bridge is not seen.

As you can see, although there are some remnants of ice road floating in Rat Portage Bay, just above the wing tip, the water’s open all the way to Devil’s Gap now.

Let the boating begin. Don’t forget to check your safety equipment.

May 4, 2019: Josh Broten

It’s been a crazy day here in the Ice Patrol headquarters. If you’re picturing that as a busy newsroom with bustling staff, downsize that to a desk in a home office with one frazzled guy and a husky that would like to go to bed.

I got some fresh aerial photos from a fellow called Josh Broten, who flies a Legend Cub.

These pictures are from the area around the Northwest Angle where the US/Canada border takes an unusual turn or two.

Josh says: Over Oak Island looking northwest. You can see Shoal Lake in the upper left hand corner of the picture.

Oak Island is right in the corner of the US/Canada border, southwest of Big Narrows, or north of Big Traverse. I can’t believe how much water has opened up in this area.

Josh’s second picture was taken in almost the same area, but looks more northeast.

Josh says: Above Cyclone Island looking north northeast towards French Portage.

Water. Water everywhere. Despite cool temperatures, the ice seems to be in full retreat. The little patches of shoreline ice in these pictures won’t last long- probably not 24 hours. Off in the distance, I see larger sheets of ice near the horizon, probably north of the Alneau Peninsula. That might be more persistent.

May 4, 2019: Update

Some waterfront pictures from guest contributors first, then a satellite update.

Brenda Stewart sent  this picture of the ice retreating on Longbow Lake.

Brenda says: The wind is really pushing the ice off of Longbow Lake today.

Brad Douglas submitted this shot of Echo Bay.

Brad says: This is taken today, May 4 on the south end of Echo Bay pointing north. It is the deep part that usually doesn’t freeze until Clearwater Bay does due to the depth. The wind is really knocking down the ice and breaking it up with large sheets floating past my cottage. The rest of Echo Bay is clear.

My wife and I took a drive to Winnipeg today for some errands. Caroline took this picture of Falcon Lake from the car as we drove past.

There’s some ice in the distance, along the south shore, but there’s lots of open water now.

Now a satellite update. We’ve been under cloud layers a lot lately, but skies cleared a little today and Terra was able to image some of our region. Compare this to the partial picture from two days ago in the previous Ice Patrol post.

The blue streaks are probably high altitude clouds composed of ice crystals.

See the FAQ page for a similar satellite image with some key locations marked.

The central part of the lake, from the Northwest angle across the Alneau Peninsula is obscured by that pretty blue cloud, but the north and south areas are visible.

Let’s start with the north end of the lake. Almost in the middle of the picture, I think I see water at the east end of Ptarmigan Bay and White Partridge Bay. At the time this image was captured, Clearwater Bay was still mostly ice, but strong wind was bringing rapid change everywhere.

Left of centre, Shoal Lake is darkening, and it looks as if the north shore is open.

In the  south, Buffalo Bay and Muskeg Bay, at the bottom left, are opening up. The north part of the Sabaskong seems to have cleared, possibly due to ice shifting south. Close to the bottom of the picture, the Rainy River is flowing into a huge area of open water on the Big Traverse.

We were warmer than expected today, and although the temperature remained lower than normal for this time of year, the wind worked hard to make up for it. If that continues, large areas of the lake could be open for boating by the time the weekend’s over. Sunday’s supposed to be cooler, but still windy; Monday cool and merely breezy.



May 2, 2019: Even Better Timing

Gary Hawryluk sent me these pictures just after I went to bed last night. He took them from WestJet 3417, which passed south of Kenora on its way from Thunder Bay to Winnipeg at approximately 5:00. By then, the clouds had mostly cleared, so he got some great shots from Flight Level 240, or about 24,000 feet.

Click on any of Gary’s images to see them full-screen and zoomable.

Gary says: Ice road from town to east side of Scotty’s (left 1/3 of shot), turning west across Manitou at the north end Scotty’s.

I’ll fill in a few more details: the plane is somewhere over the Alneau Peninsula, and this picture looks north across the ice at the eastern half of the Barrier Islands.  Halfway up the left edge is part of Allie Island and to the right are East Allie Island, French Narrows and the Eastern Peninsula. If you need help finding French Narrows, start at the vaguely arrowhead shaped island near the middle. That’s Ferrier. to the left of it is a skinny little island that points up at French Narrows.  Kenora is hidden under the edge of the cloud layer at the top.

Experimental Feature: Aerial photos with labels superimposed.

Feel free to use the comment page if you’d like to see something like this more often.

In order to keep the file size the same, this version of the image has been made smaller, and is not zoomable.

On my wish list: a way to display the small labelled image on the blog but have clicking on it take you to the full-size, unlabelled version.

Next is the western half of the Barrier Islands.

Gary says: Good illustration of the nether reaches ice roads. Crescent Island at centre left, 12 Mile Portage is where the road crosses the Barrier Islands. Further north is Whiskey Island. where it looks very sloppy (consistent with your image).

There’s so much open water at The Elbow now, between Allie Island and Mather Island, that it’s hard to make out details around Queer Island in the upper right. At the very top edge, to the right of the cloud, you can see the water flowing past Anchor Island into Keewatin Channel.

Further west.

Gary says: Ice road through 12 Mile, heading south along the West Peninsula. Image illustrates solid ice on LOW, but open water in lakes inland. Crescent Island at centre of image, with open water in the “U”.

The left side of this picture is all dark because of water flowing through Big Narrows and Tranquil Channel. To the right of them is where the ice road zigzags between Rope Island and Little Rope Island. In the distance at the top left corner of the frame, White Partridge Bay is peeking through a gap in the clouds.

Gary’s last shot is of Shoal Lake.

Gary says: Bad looking ice on Shoal Lake. Ice covered Falcon and West Hawk just visible upper left of image.

Stevens Island is at the bottom edge, Silver Fox Island is smudged by something on the window, Cash Island is close to the middle. Snow drifts persisting on the ice make me think that the ice on Shoal Lake is less porous than on Lake of the Woods.

I think this is Gary Hawryluk’s third year of sending me photographs. Thanks so much, Gary.