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.

April 10, 2019: Falling Behind

I felt like it was time to look back and see how our current ice conditions compare to those of the last few years at this date.

As it happens, I have pictures from April 9th for 2019, 2018 and 2015. For 2016 and 2017, I have pictures from within a few days of that date. Of course, they were all taken from different heights and in different directions… but Town Island appears in each one, so I’ve marked it with a big red arrow. The arrows point roughly north, by the way.

Don’t forget: you can click on the pictures to see a full-screen, zoomable version.

Lets have a look. Here’s one of yesterday’s pictures. April 9, 2019.The low camera angle makes this picture hard to decipher, but zooming in may help. Not a whole lot of open water yet this year.

A picture taken exactly one year earlier: April 9, 2018.But cheer up, last year was worse. Look at all that strong white ice on Rat Portage Bay. Ice-out in 2018 wasn’t until May 14th, though, so doing better than that is setting the bar pretty low.

Two years ago: April 7, 2017.2017 was an early spring. The ice was all gone a couple of weeks from now. In this picture you can see that Safety Bay and Keewatin Channel are running freely, and water reaches out past Town Island towards Scotty.

Three years ago: April 13, 2016.2016 was mild, too. By the 13th of April, the water extended almost as far as 2017. Then things slowed down and we held on to some ice until early May.

Four years ago: April 9, 2015.April of 2015 had progressed more than this year, but ended up having a normal ice-out of early May.

I don’t have pictures from the right time period in 2014, and the camera I used then wasn’t as good. I can tell there was more ice at about this time than there is now. That’s cold comfort: ice-out in 2014 wasn’t until late May.

In summary, you can’t really look at one day and make an accurate prediction that spans the coming weeks. However, I will say that it no longer looks as if we have much chance of an early thaw. We’d need favourable conditions to be ice-free by early May, and the forecast doesn’t offer much hope of that.

Here’s one reason why: Stu Everett posted a comment that sheds light on how much difference snow cover makes. The short version is, it doesn’t just protect the ice from the sun’s rays. It also lowers the region’s air temperature by preventing the warming of the soil. Here’s his full explanation:

 

You have commented on the air temperatures in Kenora and how they seem to be holding below normal. I quote from an article I read recently: “Snow cover, or lack of it, can have a dramatic effect upon temperatures. For example when there is no snow on the ground at La Crosse, WI, the January daily average temperatures are 11.2 degrees warmer than when there is snow on ground.” OK, so let’s make that 5 degrees C.
Looks like temps will not return to normal until the ground becomes snow free. As we locals all know, there remains a fair amount of snow cover in the area, and that snow is really dense, more like ice than snow. There are still 5 cm of snow at the Kenora airport according to their data for yesterday. At the beginning of the month we had 8 cm at the airport, so the snow melt rate is really slow this year. Last year on this date there were 12 cm of snow on the ground and it took 10 days to become snow free.
So what does this mean for LOW ice out? Well I calculated last year that it is 27 days on average from no snow cover at the airport to ice out on LOW. Given the short term forecast, it seems unlikely that the airport will be snow free until this weekend at the earliest. At this time of year those 5 degrees might mean refreezing overnight, which delays melting a great deal. Last year it took some double digit temps to finally get to snow free at the airport, and that, according to the forecast seems highly unlikely in the near future. But let us be optimistic and say the airport is going to be snow free this Sunday. 27 days from Sunday is May 11. Hate to say it, but this year sure looks a lot like last year, you called ice out on the 14th, right?
One caveat though. Last year the temps got into double digits almost every day by about the 19th of April. No sign of that happening this year according to the long term forecast, sigh…..looks like another late breakup, probably after the (optimistic) May 11th cited above.
That’s pretty depressing. While I’m reluctant to forecast a late ice-out on the basis of any one single factor, we’re now looking at three unfavourable things: extensive ice, significant snow cover, and forecast cool temperatures.
 
My predictive method is mostly ice-based. I use comparisons like the one in this post to measure progress and gain perspective. It’s not looking great.
 
Stu’s preference is to look at snow cover. He’s not optimistic at all.
 
Sean uses mean daily temperatures: starting when that value rises above freezing, he weighs the forecast warmth against the severity of the winter. The mean temperature isn’t consistently above freezing yet, so he hasn’t even started his calculations.
 
Sigh.
 
Accuweather offers a forecast for all of April. That’s a long way ahead, so let’s consider it largely speculation, but they aren’t calling for double-digit temperatures until the week of the 21st.
 
And we’re looking at another snowfall Thursday night.
 
Heavy sigh.