May 9, 2019: Andrew Kozlowski

Just got these aerial photos from Andrew Kozlowski. He took them around 7:00 this evening.

Scotty Island, looking south west at the Barrier Islands. Those long, straight bits of ice on Scotty’s shore are remnants of an ice road. Looks like there’s still some significant ice south of the Barrier Islands.

This is Whisky Island, also looking roughly south west. The Manitou is clearing out.

It won’t be long now.

Thanks Andrew!

 

May 9, 2019: Going Fast

Good news is coming in from all over.

First,  Dave Debney sent me pictures yesterday that show Northern Harbour is starting to open. This one’s my favourite.

Dave didn’t add much commentary, but his pictures show the docks opening up and the ice candling out on Pine Portage Bay.

Today, Ian Bruce sent word that Bigstone Bay is starting to clear. That’s exciting, because Bigstone holds ice longer than almost anywhere else close to Kenora. Ian included this photograph.

Ian says: Looking south to Hay Island. Ice has retreated almost to the Boulder Islands. To the west, solid from east side of Copper towards Scotty’s.

Here’s another picture from Ian, taken this evening at around 6:30.

Ian says: Looking west to Kipling Island and the top end of The Hades, Smuggler’s etc.

Stu Everett sent me this update through the comment form:

A fair portion of the Manitou blew out overnight. However the area from Whisky Island west to Birch Island seems intact so you might not get through the centre channel at the east end of Crow Rock island. I did go out through the west channel, then over past Queen to catch the south track into Tranquil Channel. I could see that the Centre Section still has a fair amount of ice on it in the open area. This wind is really having a huge impact so it should not be long before the lake is open save say Shoal Lake, which always seems late. But the best news of all is fresh crappies for dinner!

Satellite imagery was partly blocked by cloud again today, but check out this image from the MODIS camera on NASA’s Terra satellite.

Water is black, Ice is bright blue, False colour images, From MODIS to you.

In brief, the ice on Big Traverse looks to be all but gone, and the two patches of ice that do show in this picture—Little Traverse lower down and north of the Alneau further up—seem to be shrinking and weakening fast.

You can’t see much of Shoal Lake, but it might have more open water now.

Other areas of interest, such as Clearwater, Ptarmigan and Bigstone Bays, are all obscured by cloud.

I don’t expect to be flying until after the weekend, but some of my friends likely will, and I’m hoping for some aerial photos to show the ice dwindling away. By Monday, I think we’ll be down to just traces. If that’s right, we’ll be almost a dead heat with last year.

May 6, 2019: Photopalooza

I have a whole stack of photos today from multiple sources, so I’m going to post them with minimal commentary.

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

First, since cloud has made it difficult to track what’s going on in the north part of Lake of the Woods lately, a pair of photographs taken from a passing Air Canada flight by Karen Boucha.

Karen says: The first shot shows north from Wiley Point.

The Alneau Peninsula is in the foreground, then huge Cliff Island, then a massive expanse of ice all the way north to the Barrier Islands. Just above the centre is the open water pushing through the Barrier Islands at The Elbow (and to a lesser extent, at French Narrows) I have more detailed shots coming up later, but the main take-away from this picture is there’s still lots of ice in the north part of Lake of the Woods.

Karen’s other photo looks almost straight down at an area south of Big Narrows.

Karen says: Open water south of Wiley Point to Outer and Portage bays and the south west end of Tranquil Channel.

Much less ice in this area.

Next I have a batch of pictures from my MAG Canada co-worker Tom Hutton. He flew past Minaki on his way to Kenora this afternoon.

Looking west at Big Sand Lake. Still frozen shore to shore, but ice looks rotten.

Little Sand Lake. Mostly open water with some large ice floes.

Gun Lake and  Minaki. Almost ice free with shrinking ice floes.

Looking south over Keewatin at Safety Bay and Keewatin Channel. Open water here.

Next are a batch of my photos. I came home via Dryden today, so I grabbed a shot over there.

This is a wide angle shot looking south at Wabigoon Lake. In the foreground, Rice Lake, north of the airport, is open. Ghost Lake and Thunder Lake, at the left, are frozen. Wabigoon is almost all white ice, but there’s open water at the west, near Downtown Dryden.

This is Vermillion Bay. Some ice near the Trans-Canada highway, and there’s more further south on Eagle Lake, but there’s a lot of open water, too.

Now on to Lake of the Woods. Photos first, with commentary for each beneath.

This is down towards Sioux Narrows, looking west. Whitefish Narrows is at the left, it’s open. Long Bay is open at the west and opening in the east, (not shown) but still has ice in between. Near the centre of the picture is Yellow Girl Bay. It’s icy, as is the big stretch of lake between the Alneau and the Barrier Islands, as seen in Karen’s first high-altitude shot.

This shot looks west along the Eastern Peninsula. Distinctive Bottle Bay is just left of centre. In the lower right, Witch Bay is open. Above that, Andrew Bay is still ice.

Let’s proceed west for a look at the water pouring through French Narrows and The Elbow that now reaches almost all the way to Middle Island. In the right foreground, that ice on Andrew Bay, but above that, Pipestone Bay is open. On the other side of Hay Island, Bigstone Bay is covered in ice, but I hear it’s weakening.

Closer look at Scotty Island, Middle Island (near centre) and The Hades. Railroad Island in the right foreground. I believe you could travel by boat from Kenora and make landfall on Scotty Island now, but not at the beach: that bay’s full of loose ice.

Here’s a close-up of Scotty Island to show what I mean.

A glance west at the Manitou and Whisky Island. Almost all ice here, but it’s breaking up.

Towards town now. This is Keewatin Channel, looking north east towards Rat Portage Bay. Still a little ice between Gun Club Island and Coney Island, but other than that, the downtown area is clear. Keewatin is in the distance at the left, Kenora at the right.

My last shot looks east over the Treaty Island area. Shragge’s Island in the foreground, Devil’s Gap in the distance, Rogers Island in between, where the ice road is keeping the ice together for now.

Josh Broten sent another picture from the American side of the lake this evening.

Josh says: This is just south of Garden Island looking north. You can see ice pretty much filling Little Traverse. Off in the distance you can also see a lot of ice still filling up the lake north of the Alneau.

It’s getting late and I have to fly tomorrow, so I’ll post this and get to bed. Good night.

 

 

March 20, 2019: First Day of Spring

Time for the first pictures. Not many, because there’s not much water to see.

First up, a glance at the Bigstone Bay and Manitou areas. As always, you can click on this picture to see it full screen, and that larger image should still be zoomable.

Apologies for the weird floating propeller blade, but I had to work fast today. This photo looks west, with Hay Island dominating the picture, and Scotty Island toward the upper right of the frame. The main reason I included this shot is to illustrate the pure white snow cover. Those few darker patches are not slush, they are cloud shadows.

Onward to Keewatin Channel, where there’s some open water.

In the distance, Keewatin at the left, downtown Kenora at the right. In the foreground, Channel Island. At the right, Shragges Island. By the nose of the plane, Anglican Island and Crowe Island. Note that the water in Keewatin Channel is nowhere near hooking up to the water in Safety Bay.

Lastly, Devil’s Gap.

Open water has reached Goat Island and Johnson Island in Rat Portage Bay, but that’s as far as it goes for now.

Not captured in any of my pictures, the open water by the Clarion Lakeside Inn. It looked to me as if the pedestrian bridge to Coney Island is floating in a fairly extensive patch of open water.

By the way, if you haven’t been checking out the comments on Ice Patrol, you’ve been missing some interesting remarks on the effects of snow cover and current. Stu Everett checked how the depth of snow remaining at the Kenora airport in late March related to ice-out, and noticed a strong tendency for heavy snow to correlate to late thaws.

Mike wondered if flooding on the American side was going to lead to high rates of flow through Lake of the Woods, and if that would affect the thaw. So Stu went to the Lake of the Woods Control board data and found that water flow didn’t seem to have a strong influence.

Brian went out on the lake in a tracked vehicle and found the deep crusty snow was covering slush so bad that he turned back. He’s hoping that warmer temperatures will turn the snow cover to darker slush that will offer less insulation and reflectivity.

I’ll be flying again tomorrow. Temperatures were quite mild this afternoon, but I don’t expect to see drastic changes overnight.

May 12, 2018: Satellite Saturday

Ice on Lake of the Woods continues to melt away.

Devon Ostir took this picture of the last scraps of ice on the Manitou yesterday, near Wolf Island and Hare Island.

This morning he reports it is all gone.

Satellite imagery confirms that ice is vanishing. Here’s Saturday’s picture from the Aqua’s MODIS camera in true colour.

Shoal Lake has significant ice, but on Lake of the Woods, the patch south of the Barrier Islands is fading fast. The sheet of ice at the south end, near Baudette, is both bigger and whiter, but it looks very fractured, and wave action in that huge expanse of open water will probably make short work of it.

Here’s the false-colour version of the same image.

The ice actually shows less clearly in the artificially filtered scheme. Ice in the last stages of melting (see an old post about candling here) always looks the same as water in the false-colour images.

The weekend should stay sunny, breezy and warm, with temperatures at or above normal. If the remaining ice on Lake of the Woods lasts through Sunday, I expect it will vanish on Monday. I’ve already got my year-end graphs ready to go.  Shoal Lake might take a day or two longer.

 

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.