April 26, 2019: Matthew Render

I didn’t fly today, but a couple of my friends did, and they sent me photographs.

You can click on these photos to see a full-screen, zoomable version.

Matther Render passed by late this morning and took a few pictures from airliner altitudes.

Here’s a great shot of the northern part of Lake of the Woods.

Matthew’s route takes him well south of Kenora, so he can point his camera north and capture the whole north part of the lake. In this picture, what looks like mainland in the foreground is actually the north shore of the Alneau Peninsula, with enormous Cliff Island close by. It looks like all the little lakes on the Alneau are open.

Overall, the ice is darkening markedly, and areas of water are expanding. There’s a huge dark stretch of open water at Big Narrows now, visible at the left of the picture. Just above the centre, you can see where water is pushing through the Barrier Islands and tearing out the ice at The Elbow. Kenora’s partly hidden by cloud at the top of the picture, but Hay Island and Bigstone Bay are visible to the upper right. Ptarmigan Bay is almost encircled by cloud at the upper left.

Matthew also passes close to Shoal Lake, which is hard for me to reach.

Again, we’re looking north, so we have a good view of the south end of Shoal, but cloud is hiding the north shore. Dominique Island and Stevens Island are the distinctive matching pair near the middle of the picture. Cash Island is visible through a gap in the clouds above and to the right of centre, but Bag Bay and Clytie Bay, at the right side, are obscured. Shoal lake doesn’t usually thaw until a few days after Lake of the Woods.

I asked Lyle Griffith, one of my colleagues at MAG Canada, if he could get a picture of the area west of Northern Harbour, and he sent me this shot.

I’m really pleased to see that in addition to Northern Harbour, Lyle also managed to get in not only Sultana Island at the left, but Bare Point, including Bare Point Marina, at the upper right. Lunny’s Island and Nanton’s Island are on the centre line near the top. The east end of Scotty Island is visible at the upper left corner, and Town Island is part of the cluster at the top right.

Still solid ice at Northern Harbour, I’m afraid. Pine Portage Bay provides berths deep enough for keelboats, but it doesn’t open early. Anywhere you see an ice road, you can reckon on thick ice. In the first place, they’re built where currents are light, and then because they’re plowed, the ice deepens from exposure to the cold air.

Speaking of cold air, the forecast is still suggesting we’ll have a week of cooler weather, with overnight lows a degree or two either side of freezing, and single-digit daytime highs. Mean daily temperatures will be about 3 to 5ºC, so the thaw won’t grind to a halt, but it will slow down.

You can use the ARCHIVE OF PREVIOUS MONTHS AND YEARS tool to compare this April’s pictures to last year’s. Actually, you can choose a March, April or May from any of the last five years, and it’ll take you to the last Ice Patrol entry from that month. Then you can scroll down to look at posts from earlier that month. Cheer yourself up by looking at April of 2018, or ruin your mood by looking at years like 2017 or 2016. Find the ARCHIVE tool at the right side of the web page, below the FLAG COUNTER and the RECENT COMMENTS, but above the SATELLITE PICTURES links.

April 25, 2019: New Camera

Today’s photo opportunities didn’t work out as well as I had hoped. By the time we came home this afternoon, it was turning cloudy, casting huge patches of shadow on the lake and making it hard to tell what was water and what was ice. Worse, it was trying to snow, and it was very gusty. We gave up and concentrated on landing.

But there is some good news; I did get a few pictures today.  Because I have a new phone, (a Samsung Galaxy S10e) with a new camera, I took some test shots this morning to break it in and get a feel for how it works. The nose of the aircraft is prominent in these pictures because we’re climbing quite steeply.

This first shot was taken using the wide angle lens*. It’s a bit too much, I think, and it looks a little blurry, although that could have been due to turbulence. But check out Rabbit Lake to the right of centre, or Laurenson’s Lake, partly blocked by the windshield wiper arm. Both have turned very dark, and the east end of Laurenson’s, under the wiper, is melted.

*The wide angle lens does not shoot a picture with an aspect ratio like this: I’ve cropped out a whole lot of sky and dashboard from the top and bottom. It does include a wide span of terrain, though.

That greyish smudge at the right is a bug-strike on the windshield. Sign of spring.

As usual, you can click on these pictures to see a full-screen version that can be zoomed to full resolution.

Using the regular lens, here’s the standard Rat Portage Bay and Safety Bay shot.

Town Island is at the left edge of the frame. Near the centre of the picture, Gun Club Island is still surrounded by ice on Rat Portage Bay, but other than the ice roads, that ice looks weak. The last areas of ice in Safety Bay are on the north side of Coney Island, and they look almost completely candled. Kenora Bay, at the right, is letting go at last. (For an explanation of candled ice, and some close-up pictures, see this post from April of 2017.)

As we turned left, Bare Point and Middle Island came into view.

There are watery patches between Bare Point and Lunny’s Island now, and you can see how the water by Town Island, off the nose of the King Air, is expanding and reaching towards Scotty Island.

A little further left, and you can see most of Hay Island as well.

Left of the nose, you can see Quarry Island, Queen Bee, Chien d’Or and Burley Islands. No water in that area yet, but zoom in and look at the Barrier Islands behind Middle Island (right in front of the plane’s nose): the water at The Elbow has expanded a lot.

I didn’t take many pictures this morning because I was more interested in what we’d see this afternoon. Then the weather turned poor on us, and I decided to wait for Friday morning. So of course I got word this evening that my Friday flight, a pilot “check ride,” has been cancelled.

Before I go, I should talk about the weather forecast a little. The snow we flew through this afternoon didn’t reach the ground, but it was the vanguard of a cold air mass. The temperature tonight is forecast to sink to 0ºC, and although we should limp back up to about 10ºC tomorrow afternoon, we can then expect several days of single-digit highs and lows sinking to around -2ºC. Those temperatures are about 5º below normal for late April, and that’s likely to put a damper on things. The lake will continue to thaw, but not at the same rate we’ve been enjoying since the middle of the month.

I’ll be talking to Ted Burton at 89.5 The Lake tomorrow morning just after 8:00.

 

April 24, 2019: Fresh Photos

I got some new photographs this morning. Lake ice continues to weaken all over.

Tech note: For the last few years, I have taken pictures with my trusty smartphone, a Samsung Galaxy 5 Neo. This winter, some dust got inside the lens, and there have been black specks on the pictures ever since. It was often possible to crop them out on the Ice Patrol photos, but I have been wanting to address the issue.

Starting tomorrow, photographs will be taken using a new phone, a Samsung Galaxy S10e.

As usual, you can click on these pictures to see a full-screen version that can be zoomed to full resolution.

First up, a familiar shot: Rat Portage Bay and Safety Bay. If we take off on Runway 26, this is what we see soon after departure.

This time, I’ve included Laurenson’s Lake. All three of Kenora’s suburban lakes—Rabbit Lake, Round Lake and Laurenson’s Lake—are darkening fast. Over on Rat Portage Bay and Safety Bay, water is eating away at the weakening ice.

Here’s a look at Devil’s Gap and Treaty Island.

Although the ice roads are still visible as relatively strong lines, the ice appears to be rotting over wide areas now.

As Devil’s Gap went behind the wing, we were able to photograph more of the area around Town Island.

This looks west over Matheson Bay, and clearly shows Rogers Island, just in front of the wingtip, then Galt Island, Gordon Island and Town Island.

Now a shot from further away that includes a bit more territory.

This picture includes not only Matheson Bay in the centre foreground, but also Bare Point and part of Bald Indian Bay to the left. Beyond Bare Point is Lunny Island, and beyond that Middle Island and Scotty Island are in the middle distance.

As we turned east, we caught this view of Northern Harbour and Longbow Lake.

Pine Portage Bay is half hidden behind the nose of the aircraft, but it’s all frozen, as is Longbow Lake. With the sun shining on the ice, it wasn’t as easy to judge the colour or condition of the ice here.

April 22, 2019: Change

Today I got a chance to see how the warm weekend affected the lake ice.

Lets start downtown, looking west at Rat Portage Bay.

Rat Portage Bay is in the middle of the picture, and at last the open water is pushing in from Devil’s Gap. Gun Club Island is still surrounded by ice, but it looks much blotchier than last week. Safety Bay, at the right, is almost entirely open now. There was still some candled ice when I drove along the waterfront earlier this morning, so I think things are changing rapidly there.

Click on any of these pictures to see a full-screen, zoomable version.

Aiming the camera a little to the left, I was able to include Town Island in the view.

Treaty Island has shifted from the left side of the picture to the right, so if you start with Rogers Island near the middle, you can work left to look at Galt Island and Town Island. Click to zoom in, and you can see that the water around Town Island is expanding towards Scotty Island, at the left by the windshield wiper arm.

Now, my first look at the Ptarmigan Bay area.

The Northern Peninsula dominates this picture, with White Partridge Bay in the foreground, near the dashboard. Follow that up the right side of the frame to look at Clearwater Bay. Ptarmigan Bay is on the left, with Fox Island just above the aircraft’s nose. I don’t see any water in this area yet, but the ice is darkening.

We turned left, to look eastward over the Manitou.

Whisky Island is at the bottom, left of center. Further back and close to the left edge is Scotty Island, with Middle Island and Hay Island behind it. Over on the right is The Elbow, with the open water between Mather Island and Allie Island spreading towards Queer Island.

Here’s the same area, but looking north east.

The Barrier Islands, with Shammis Island at the left, by the propeller blade, then Mathis Island, The Elbow, Allie Island and East Allie Island. In the back row, beyond Andrew Bay: Scotty Island, Middle Island, The Hades, and Hay Island.

Last, a check on Big Narrows. Looking south west.

Wiley Bay reaches to the right edge, and Wiley Point is close to the middle of the frame, with Big Narrows behind it. Zoom in to see Tranquil Channel and French Portage Narrows. Part of Queen Island is at the lower left corner.

Summary: four or five days of warm weather have enabled areas with current to open significantly. Places with less current, such as Ptarmigan, Clearwater and Bigstone, have seen less dramatic progress, but the ice is darkening all over.

We’re still doing better than last year, but this is the week when things started to warm up in 2018, bringing late but rapid change. Can we match that pace this year?

Multiple forecasts (The Weather Network, Accuweather, Environment Canada, and even the Weather Underground) all agree that we’ll have a few more days of warmth, and then, as we get to the weekend, it will cool off. Opinion is divided on how cool and how long it will last. Some overnight lows a little below freezing seem likely, while a stretch of single-digit daytime highs may last for a few days, or several.

If the more pessimistic forecasts turn out to be right, we could still come close to a thaw as late as last year. (Totally ice-free on May 14th). If we we don’t get too cool for too long, and benefit from some rain, we could continue to make good progress.

 

 

April 21, 2019: Signs of Spring Sunday / Retrospective

Sings of Spring first, then a rummage through the archives to see how 2019 now compares to past years.

On the migratory duck front, I’ve seen a pair of Goldeneyes.

The last traces of snow are gone from my back yard and the north side of my roof.

Some hiking trails on Tunnel Island are mainly clear, but the B trail is not good: it had long stretches of slippery ice on the path last time I tried it.

The town came and swept  the sand off my street and sidewalk. Yay! and thanks.

Warm roads would wear down the soft compound on my ice tires rapidly, so I put my summer tires on for this weekend’s road trip.  Now I can roll my eyes righteously whenever I hear someone go by on studded tires.

Now let’s compare my April 18th pictures from this year to pictures taken on around the same date during the last five years. I’ll focus on two parts of the lake: the Town Island to Scotty Island stretch, and Treaty Island because it’s next to Rat Portage Bay and Devil’s Gap.

Here’s what it looks like this year.

There are small amounts of open water in the Town/Scotty end of the Manitou.

Treaty Island is almost entirely frozen in right now. Devil’s Gap, at the right end of the oval, has some open water.

Last year was a slow spring.

On April 18th of 2018, there was no open water around Town Island, let alone Scotty. Treaty Island had only a little water showing at Devil’s Gap.

Okay. On to 2017. I have pictures from April 20th that year. This is going to make you feel bad.

Not only could you reach Scotty Island, you could Reach Middle Island and parts of Hay Island, too.

Treaty Island had no ice at all.

2016: These pictures are from April 19th.

2016 wasn’t quite as good as 2017, but you could drive a boat to the west end of Town Island, and you could get within shouting distance of Scotty Island.

Ice was rotting around Treaty. 2016 was an average year, with ice completely gone in the first few days of May.

2015: from April 17th.

Ice was weakening by this time that year, but not yet clearing much around Town Island. Another average year.

Same story at Treaty.

Lastly, 2014, from April 21st, a miserable day with heavy cloud and snow flurries.

No open water anywhere near Town Island, and as for Scotty, fuhgetaboutit.

Treaty Island was about what you’d expect:

Ice-bound, with just a trickle of water open in Devil’s Gap. Rat Portage Bay was solid. 2014 was very late: the ice wasn’t all gone until May 21.

Summary:

The dates change from year to year, but the pattern of ice-out is pretty consistent. These two sample areas open together.

This year’s thaw is nowhere near the best, but it won’t be horrifyingly late.

We’ve got another four days or so of warm temperatures before things turn a little cooler for a while, with some overnight lows likely to be just below freezing, and daytime highs sinking as low as 5ºC. I hope I don’t regret changing my tires. Below normal temperatures could stretch on for ten days.

The more the lake opens now, the more the ice will be vulnerable to wind and rain, even during that cold stretch.

It’s hard to guess how this will play out. If we could stay warm, we would certainly do a lot better than last year’s May 14th. But if things turn cold until the beginning of May, we might still end up around the same.

I’ll be talking to Ken O’Neil at Q-104 on Monday morning, and after that a training flight should give me a chance to take some fresh pictures. I’m hoping there were big changes over the Easter weekend.

 

April 17, 2019: Long Bay

We came home from around Sioux Narrows this evening, so I was able to get some pictures around Whitefish Bay.

But first, an update on The Tangle, Town Island and Scotty Island from this morning.I photographed this area just yesterday, but this picture shows things from a different angle.  Town Island is near the middle, The Tangle leads into Keewatin Channel at the right, and Middle Island and Scotty Island are at the left. The Barrier Islands stretch right across the frame in the distance, and if you zoom in, you can see the water at The Elbow.

You can click on these pictures to see them full-screen, and you can click again to zoom those images to the full resolution.

Now let’s jump to this evening and the Sioux Narrows area.Berry Lake is near the windshield wiper at the lower left corner. You’re looking roughly west with Long Bay stretching at an angle from the left edge.

There’s been a little open water at Whitefish Narrows for a while now, so I thought we should take a closer look.Whitefish Narrows is near the centre of this picture, but there’s more than one place where the sun glinted off water.

Here’s a look at Yellow Girl Bay. Open water is spreading through the chain of islands at the mouth of Yellow Girl Bay, at the left of this picture. Witch Bay reaches to the right edge of the frame, and beyond it is Bigstone Bay.

As you can see, almost everything remains frozen, but small patches of water are opening up where the currents are strong. That’s all for tonight.

April 16, 2019: Aerial Photographs

Yesterday’s post with Sean’s graphs has been updated, to show a thaw index closer to last year’s actual result instead of last year’s forecast. Also the graphs have titles now. You may need to hit refresh to see the changes.

Now six pictures from around 10:00 this morning.

I’ll start with the Winnipeg River, because we were arriving from the north.This is looking west at the Big Straight, with Minaki at the right hand edge of the picture. Although the river has quite a lot of open water, the lakes are a different story.

You can click on any of these pictures to see them full-screen, and click on that larger image to zoom to the full resolution.

A little closer to town, around Dufresne Island, facing south west.Downtown Kenora is at the left, Keewatin is above the centre of the frame, with Darlington Bay extending to the right.

Here’s a nice shot of the whole Kenora harbourfront.Kenora Bay and the LOW hospital campus are at the lower left. Keewatin is at the right. If you drive over the Keewatin Bridge, you see a lot of open water, but there’s  ice out by Yacht Club Island. Coney Island is still surrounded by ice and Rat Portage Bay is pretty solid.

This next picture shows the condition of the lake as a whole: white ice as far as the eye can see.Zoom in to look at the open water in The Tangle. Left of centre, you can see the ice does look a little discoloured out between Town Island and Scotty Island now.

Lastly, a look at Pine Portage Bay, Long Point and Longbow Lake.Sorry, but there’s no sign of any melting in this area.

I talked to someone that went ice fishing in the Storm Bay last weekend. They said there was still three feet of solid ice, with only an inch or two of softer refrozen slush on top.

This is why I’ve been pointing my camera at the river and harbourfront; there’s not much going on anywhere else. When I get a chance, I’ll try to swing by Sioux Narrows and the Barrier Islands because satellite imagery suggests there’s some water showing there, but that’s a fairly significant detour, so I’m saving that for when there’s more to see.

Satellite images were good today, especially the ones from Terra. Links updated.