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: Sunset Cruise

I really didn’t expect to get any usable pictures on this evening’s night training flight, but we started at around sunset and had a few minutes of twilight before it got too dark.

The first photo is a near duplicate of the Rat Portage Bay picture I took in the morning. Eleven hours later, the sun is reflecting off the water, giving strong contrast.

A little further west.

I was able to get favourable light on the islands around Yacht Club Island, so you can clearly see the open water extending from Keewatin Channel all the way into Safety Bay. Not as well lit, but still visible if you click to zoom in, the subtly shining water in The Tangle.

Then, something I didn’t expect. This next picture is a close match to this morning’s shot of White Partridge Bay. But there’s something new.

As the last sunlight slanted across the ice, it reflected off dozens of little patches of open water. I’m sure those weren’t there this morning. I couldn’t get them all to light up at the same time, but I counted over twenty little glints as we flew past. Some of them might only be surface water on top of ice, but even if that’s so, this is a spectacular change in less than twelve hours.

Next, we flew east towards Sioux Narrows.

With the sun behind us, the lighting was less helpful. Still, you can make out the water in Whitefish Narrows in this picture of Long Bay and Whitefish Bay.

Our last ice photo was this one taken facing the sunset from over Andrew Bay.

Right in the middle of the picture is the scrap of water between Middle Island and Strawberry Island. Beyond that is Scotty Island and the shining water flowing into Keewatin Channel and Safety Bay.  Queer Island is at the lower left, Railroad Island is above and to the right of it, Hay Island fills the lower right corner.

And then it was dark.

This is the waterfront looking east from Keewatin to Kenora in the distance.

Good night.

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 11, 2019: Little Change

It was gusty and bumpy today at low altitudes today, so I took one quick picture from fairly high up before descending into the turbulence to land.

Still, it’s a useful picture, taken from 6500 feet above sea level, (or about a mile above the lake) because it shows all the area that was hard to photograph on Tuesday, when we had to fly low.

Click on the picture to see a full-screen, zoomable version.

The photograph looks north west, with Treaty Island near the middle of the frame. Gun Club Island is at the precise centre. There might be a little more water showing at the left edge, where Keewatin Channel turns into The Tangle. Water on Safety Bay seems to be creeping out to Yacht Club Island. Devil’s Gap looks about the same, especially at the Rat Portage Bay end.

There hasn’t been much progress lately. Temperatures have been low, and although rain did remove a layer of snow cover, it soon snowed again and covered everything up.

The only places the ice is yielding is where the current is strong. The rest of the lake—and all the other lakes in the area—are still ice covered. I’ll range further when conditions improve and there’s something to show for it.

In the meantime, the forecast is for snow tonight. The Weather Network says only a centimetre or so, while Accuweather says six to twelve centimetres. Environment Canada splits the difference, calling for two to four. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.

 

March 28, 2019: Four Quick Shots

I got called in to fly today, and had time to quickly take a few pictures at midday.

Shortly after take-off, I captured this view of downtown Kenora, looking west.

Devil’s Gap and Treaty Island are near the center of the picture and the Lakeside neighbourhood is to the right. At first glance, I thought the open water of Safety Bay had connected to the Keewatin Channel, but those darker areas around the Yacht Club are not open water, they’re just cloud shadows.

Click on the image to see it full screen, then click on that larger image to see it at higher resolution.

When we got a little further out, I snapped a shot of Keewatin Channel.

Town Island is at the left edge of the frame, Galt Island is at the wingtip, and beyond that, open water can be seen at Shragge’s Island near the center of the picture. Zoom in for the clearest view of what’s water and what’s shadow. There hasn’t been a great deal of change, but in the foreground of this photo, you can see a lot of rippled snow cover where the white snow drifts alternate with grey slush.

Down by the Barrier Islands, I thought I saw a significant patch of water near The Elbow.

But looking at the picture now, I’m not so sure. What I took to be water is near the center of the frame, between Allie Island and Shammis Island. If you zoom in, it does look a little bluer than the other shadows, but this photograph is inconclusive.

Lastly, because the satellite pictures indicated that water was opening up in Big Narrows, we went for a look.

This time it was obvious: we could see multiple areas of water from some distance away, including some in Tranquil Channel. This picture looks west over Wiley Point, with Shoal Lake in the distance.

Overall, not a lot more water showing, but the quality of the snow cover does look poorer, with lots of slushy areas emerging.

I should be flying again tomorrow, after dropping in on Ken at Q-104 in the morning.

 

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.