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.

 

 

May 2, 2019: Good Timing

My morning trip today was flown in cloud and showers, so there are no pictures from that. However, my afternoon trip brought me back to Kenora just as the sun broke through at about four o’clock this afternoon.

First, two pictures from guest contributors.

Rick Jackson sent me this picture from the French Narrows/Andrew Bay area. It was taken on April 30th, but it’s fun to see someone using a good-sized aluminum boat as an ice-breaker.

Rick says: We live at French Narrows and on April 30th lowered boat to see how far I could get? That Green Buoy is SE of Square Island #E25, ice was solid enough for the boat to ride up on top . Looking back in diaries we should get to BarePoint by May 08 -09 ?

I also got this May 1st picture of Rush Bay from Joe Pereira.

Joe says: Looks like all of Rush Bay is free of ice.

It’s been a frustrating week for aerial photography, but this afternoon the cloud scattered out, and we were able to fly over Lake of the Woods get some useful shots. The low cloud layer was breaking up, but we still had to stay beneath it, so these pictures are from a fairly low angle.

You can click on any of the following pictures to see a full-screen version that can be zoomed to it’s full resolution.

First up: Keewatin Channel/Rat Portage Bay.

Looking roughly east. The isolated island below the centre of the picture is Yacht Club Island; you can see the red roof of the Clubhouse at the east end. That blurry rectangle is the electrical connector for airplane’s heated windshield. Worth noting in this photograph is Gun Club Island, visible above Yacht Club. Because of the ice roads, Gun Club is always the last thing to let go on Rat Portage Bay, but it looks like that could happen any day now.

Next we banked south to fly down Keewatin Channel.

That’s Crowe Island right on the nose of the King Air, with ice extending left towards Rat Portage Bay. Above Crowe is Anglican Island, Channel Island and so on, with The Tangle at the right above the wipers. Zoom in to see Scotty Island in the distance.

I’ve been trying to get closer to Clearwater Bay for days, so we turned west.

This is Bulman Bay, just south of Rheault Bay, with Bulman Island near the middle of the picture. Ice seems to be shore to shore here. The eastern end of White Partridge Bay is at the right side of the frame. There are patches of open water there, but most of the dark areas are just cloud shadows.

Here’s Corkscrew Channel.

Looking west towards Clearwater. I wish we could have gone further west, or at least climbed higher, but I didn’t see any significant water in this direction.

We swung south towards Brûlé Point.

Ice is starting to let go here. None of the deciduous trees are turning green. I don’t think they’re even budding yet.

Then we had to turn east to start heading for the airport.

This is Fox Island and The Manitou. Follow the softening ice road at the left to check out Hare Island, Wolf Island and Welcome Channel. Something looked strange about Whisky Island, so we went for a closer look.

The Manitou is almost entirely frozen, but there’s some weird patchy ice around Whisky Island with a few air holes in it.

We straightened out to the east again.

Holmstrom’s Marsh is at the lower left of this photo, and Thompson Island extends beyond the aircraft’s nose.

Zoom in on this picture to see the open water getting tantalizingly close to Scotty Island. Right now there’s an ice barrier between Anchor Island and Scotty, but it should let go in a day or so.

Last, as we headed off the lake towards the airport, a look north over our left wing at Galt Island and Devil’s Gap.

Allan’s Island is partly hidden by the prop, and the propeller blade is pointing right at Devil’s Gap. In this picture, you can really see how the ice roads strengthen the ice around Baker’s Island at the mouth of Matheson Bay at the right, and off the wingtip, north towards Rogers Island and Treaty Island.

That concludes today’s whirlwind tour.

Weather note: there was a dusting of snow on the ground again this morning, and although the sun did come out late this afternoon, we still only managed to reach six or seven degrees Celsius. Winnipeg was sunnier for more of the day, so it was warmer there, but basically, a huge swath of Canada from the Prairies to Quebec is caught in a cold northerly air mass. Forecasters are fairly confident that colder than normal temperatures will persist for two weeks or so. They’re not  making any extravagant promises for the weeks after that, either.

 

May 1, 2019: Marinas, Aerials and a Graph

Lots of stuff today. I’ll start with some contributor photos, move on to a handful of fresh aerial photographs, and finish with a look at Sean’s Thaw Graph and the weather outlook.

You can click on any of the images to see them full-screen. Some will be higher resolution than others.

I got photographs from three contributors today that follow up on my marina report from yesterday. Here they are in the order I received them.

Al Smith sent me this picture of the docks at Smith Camps on Thunder Bay.

Smith Camps on Thunder Bay.

This shot looks out from Thunder Bay at Bigstone Bay.

Then Ian Bruce sent me this look at Bigstone from a different vantage point.

Ian says: Taken from mainland on Branch road 6A, looking south to Hay Island. Boulder Island middle distance to the east side touching flag pole. Still lots of ice, shorelines thinning to a bit open.

A little later, Brian Finnegan sent me a picture  of Henderson’s Marina on Route Bay.

Henderson’s Marina, Route Bay.

Looks like things are coming along there.

In a separate email, Brian attached this shot of the docks at Northern Harbour.

Docks at Northern Harbour, Pine Portage Bay.

Brian mentioned that marina operator Gary Hall said he hopes to be putting boats in the water next week.

Thanks to Al, Ian and Brian for taking the time to send me their pictures to share with you.

Okay, on to aerial photographs. Today wasn’t great weather for taking pictures. Luckily, I grabbed a few shots in the morning, just in case the afternoon was poor. This turned out to be the right choice: although we had low cloud in the morning, we had lower cloud in the afternoon, with showers as well.

So, I’ll start with the standard view of downtown Kenora I get after we lift off from Runway 26 and climb to the west.

Laurenson’s Lake is open now, and so is Round Lake (not shown in this pic) Rat Portage Bay still has some ice, but it looks very weak.

As we start to swinging south to head east to Dryden, we get a look at the area south of Devil’s Gap.

In brief: Matheson Bay at the left, Gordon and Galt Islands near the middle, Rogers and Treaty Islands at the right. The ice looks soft here, too. The channel into Devil’s Gap is open at the lower left, partly blurred out by a propeller blade.

Next, as we continue to turn from south to east, we look at Bald Indian Bay.

Sultana Island dominates the middle of the frame, Pine Portage Bay is behind that, and Heenan Point extends almost to the right edge of the picture. Thunder Bay lies behind it.

Okay, remember how I said it was a good thing I snapped a few pictures on the way out this morning? Here’s what it looked like in the afternoon. I had to grab this shot through the side window; it’s impossible to shoot through the windshield with our high-speed wipers going.

Anyway, this looks south west at part of Bigstone Bay with Heenan Point at the right and Hay Island emerging from the rain in the distance.

Now, on to the weather situation.

I had to email Sean to ask him to update the Thaw Graph. As you can imagine, it’s not good news, and he didn’t want to depress everyone. Even so, I think it’s a useful way to picture the temperature trends and their significance.

Click on the graph to more easily read the fine print. The blue line with dots represents how our daily mean temperature is adding up towards our goal. (Set to 240 points based on similar ice-making conditions last winter.) With recent temperatures barely squeaking above freezing, that upward progress has levelled off lately. That means a delay in accumulating enough warm weather to melt the presumed amount of ice.

Which brings us to the forecast. A normal daytime high this time of year is around 15ºC. The current  Weather Network forecast doesn’t call for a temperature that warm until mid-May. Forecasts can be wrong, of course, and they’re most certainly subject to change. But it seems likely that we’ll be spending the next two weeks struggling, (and mostly failing) to reach double-digit highs. At night, we’ll be close to freezing.

If there’s a bright side, it’s a peculiar one: miserable weather can also remove ice. Rain and wind are not as nice as sunshine, but they do transfer energy that can melt and break up ice. As we head into May, I’ll take any help we can get.

 

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.