May 10, 2018: Remnants

Terra Satellite captured a clean image of Lake of the Woods today. Here’s how it looks in True Colour.

You can see there are three main patches of ice remaining. The bright one at the left is Shoal Lake, and the fainter one to the right of it is the area south of the Barrier Islands. The patchy one near the bottom is by Baudette.

Side note: Kenora shows very clearly on this picture as a beige blotch at the upper right. Look closely, and you can just make out three tiny dark blobs in the brightest part. Those are Rabbit Lake, Round Lake and Laurenson’s Lake!

Here’s the same image in false colour. Now that you know where to look, you should be able to spot our suburban lakes again.

The same three patches of ice are visible, but the differences in ice strength more clear.

Sometimes, very thin ice is indistinguishable from space. So I went flying and took a look from the air.

Click on any of the pictures below to see a larger version that you can zoom in on.

Middle Island and the Hades are in front of the aircraft’s nose. Scotty Island is in the center of the frame, and the patch of ice extending from Scotty to Whiskey Island is not visible from space. It is very weak, and will be gone tonight.

The larger sheet of ice is the one south of the Barrier Islands. It’s in poor shape, but it’s pretty big. We circled around it for a closer look.

This picture looks north, with Cliff Island in the foreground, and Bath Island dead center. The Barrier Islands are at the far edge of the ice, and the little patch by Scotty can be seen beyond them. Kenora is just visible as some pale specks in the far-off haze. You can’t see all of this icy area in this picture; smaller sheets of ice extend in both directions, but they’re weak and won’t last.

Our training flight took us over by Sioux Narrows. Click on the image to zoom in and see the iconic bridge in the foreground. Beyond it is Whitefish Bay, which has a reputation for thick ice, but it’s no straggler this year: it’s all open. The black and grey blur is just a propeller blade photo-bombing the picture.

This picture looks west, so in the top right corner, you can see the ice we circled around before, and far off on the horizon, the white line is the ice on Shoal Lake.

We didn’t go far south, so I didn’t get a good picture of the ice down on Big Traverse, but here’s a hazy one just to show that it’s real.

It’s not very warm today, but it is sunny and windy, so all this ice is going to have a hard time. The small patch by Scotty Island should be gone by dawn. The bigger area south of the Barrier Islands might last a day or two. I’m not sure about big sheet down on Big Traverse. It looks weak, and it’s very exposed to wind down there. It could also go in a day or two. The ice on Shoal Lake looks stronger. It might last three days or so.

Sean C. will update his graph tomorrow because he’s been saying for some time that May 11 would be the day we’ll hit a thaw index of 200, enough heat to melt all the ice we made last winter. I’ll recap his method tomorrow; it worked very well this year, and shows great promise for predicting future spring thaws.

April 28, 2018: Flashback

The late spring we’re having this year invites comparison to 2014, a notorious year that saw lake ice hanging around until May 21.

So let’s take a look back.

2014

This is a picture I took of Keewatin Channel on April 29 of 2014.

2018

And here’s one of the same area from from April 26, 2018. The extent of the ice is roughly comparable, but the colour of the ice is completely different.

That matters. Here’s a comment from Stu Everett, who looked into how snow cover and sunshine affect break-up.

I came across a research paper from the 1960’s on freeze up and thaw of lakes that had an interesting observation. The study concluded that freeze up has a lot to do with processes such as sensible and latent heat transfer. On the other hand, break up was impacted more by radiation and wind. The study observed that once the ice was snow free, a sort of green house effect occurred, and the ice began to melt not only from the top but also from the bottom. In short, the ice becoming snow free has a major impact on melting.
So I went to the Environment Canada historical weather site and took a look at the last day there was snow on the ground at the airport by year, as a proxy for when LOW was snow free. I then calculated the average length of time from last snow on the ground to ice out on LOW. The average length of time was 27 days. To cut to the chase, last snow on the ground at the airport was April 17th this year. If it works out to be an average year then, the ice should be out on May 13th.
One other observation I would make is that the length of time from last snow to ice out varied from 19 days (2013) to 36 days (2012). This is a tighter spread than the analysis using inflection date, but there is not a huge difference. And the averages work out to 27 versus 32 days. So the May 15th date +/- a few days is probably a good guess, as you previously indicated. Finally, as the study I cited earlier noted, a major wind storm once the ice is weakened could “blow out” the lake somewhat earlier
I added the emphasis to the radiation and wind part, because I think that’s key. Sunshine makes a difference. Judging from my pictures, late April of 2014 was cloudy with snow flurries.
If you’re curious about how ice melts from the bottom, here’s a comment on that topic from a day or so earlier. Brian wrote:
Fun fact – the maximum density of fresh water is about 4°C.
In winter the ice is (obviously) at or below zero, and floats. There’s also a relatively thin layer of water between zero and 4°C under the ice which, being a bit less dense than the 4°C water below, also floats.
I suspect in spring, sun and meltwater above 4°C can displace/warm the cold layer so instead of a cold boundary layer, a less dense warm boundary layer can replace it (as now warmed to 4°C, the old cold boundary water falls to join the denser bottom water), which hastens ice bottom candling.
I was hoping to find a pair of clear satellite shots from the same late April date of 2014 and 2018, but clouds spoiled things. The best I could do was a sharp image from April 29, 2018  and a blurry one from April 26 this year. (Coincidentally, the same dates as my pictures above.)
A quick refresher: thick ice is turquoise, weak ice is darker, open water is black.

2014

2018

I thought this year would look better than 2014. It doesn’t look it, at least not on the blurry side. But on the sharp side of the picture, pay close attention to the Whitefish Bay/Sioux Narrows area at the right edge of this image. I think we’re doing better there, and I trust that sharp imagery more. Also, keep that three-day difference in the dates in mind: by the 29th, we may see a much darker lake.

On the whole, I think we’re starting to pull ahead of 2014, and we’ve got a couple of really warm days coming to give us a further boost. Sunday and Monday are forecast to hit 18°C. After that we’ll see a brief dip to below-normal temperatures to ring in May before things bounce back to near-normal for a while.
Signs of spring: Most of our marinas are still iced in, but Caroline texted me Friday morning to say there was a boat at the Clarion’s docks. Later that afternoon I saw a pair of jet-skis frolicking in Kenora Bay, and another boat on a trailer heading for somewhere to launch.  Oh, and I spotted a pelican the other day.

April 25, 2018: Rapid Progress

The weather has stayed warm and windy, and it’s making a big difference to the ice. The long-term forecast still anticipates a cool start to May, but for now we’re melting ice while the sun shines.

I’ll start with two pictures taken as we climbed out of Kenora this morning.

That’s Rabbit Lake beside the nose of the aircraft. If you’ve ever wondered why it has that name, compare the shape to a chocolate Easter bunny. It’s distorted by the low angle, and the ears don’t show well, but you can get the idea. Click on this picture to see a larger version that will let you admire the open water stretching all the way from Keewatin Channel at the left to well down the Winnipeg River at the right.

Our second shot looks west down Treaty Island. This picture was hastily taken as we started to turn on course, so naturally I cut off Safety Bay on the right edge and buried Devil’s Gap under the nose. That’s Rogers Island right on our nose, and beyond that you can see water opening up in the Tangle. Still plenty of ice in the Manitou, of course.

Fast forward to our return this afternoon.

This is Whitefish Bay, down by Sioux Narrows, looking west. It’s hazy, and the lighting is flat, so at first I thought all those ripples by the windshield wipers might be open water… but no. Click to zoom in, and you can see cracks in the underlying ice; that’s surface water. Further to the right, there is real open water at Whitefish Narrows, and it has expanded in the last few days.

 

This is Witch Bay in the foreground. Above and to the right are Andrew Bay, Pipestone Bay, Hay Island,  and Bigstone Bay. The ice is much darker, and it looks weak.

Let’s go to the satellite imagery, Bob.

The image above is from yesterday. The image below is from today.

There’s a thin veil of cloud, but that ice looks a whole lot darker. Also, the Rainy River is eating ice at the south end. Falcon Lake and West Hawk look transformed.

To see a comparable natural-colour satellite image with some features labelled, click here or visit the FAQ page.

We’re doing much better than I expected a week ago. Instead of a mild weekend followed by below-normal temperatures, we’ve had several days of average or better warmth, with steady wind and strong sunshine. That could shorten our thaw by a few days.

The long-term outlook is improving, too. While the fourteen day forecast is still calling for a cool start to May, it now talks about returning to normal conditions by the second week, so  although we may still get some cooler weather, it looks as if it could be short-lived.

Will we get set back by a spell of cooler, cloudier weather, or do we dare hope?

 

 

April 4, 2018: Philip Vrsnik

I’ve been out of town for most of the last two days, so I’m playing catch-up. I’m uploading this on April 6, but I’m dating it April 4, because that’s when the photos were taken.

On Wednesday, I went flying in the afternoon, but it was snowing pretty hard, so I couldn’t take pictures. Luckily, Philip Vrsnik passed overhead in the morning, before the snow started. Here’s what he sent me.

Philip was on the right side of the eastbound plane, so he’s looking south. This photo is centered on Shammis and Crow Rock Island, the western pair of Barrier Islands. Whiskey Island’s distinctive Y shape marks the Manitou. Most of what you see in the foreground is the Northern Peninsula.

You can click on Philip’s pictures to see a larger, zoomable version.

Next is a look at the area closer to Kenora.

Dead center in this picture is Middle Island, with Hay Island behind and to the left, and Scotty Island in front and to the right. The vertical line of shining open water more to the lower left is Devil’s Gap, and the water at the bottom of the picture, by the wisps of cloud, is Safety Bay.

Last, a shot of some of the eastern bays.

At the bottom left, Northern Harbour’s docks on Pine Portage Bay are visible. Above that, Bigstone Bay, Hay Island, Moore Bay, Andrew Bay and Witch Bay. In the distance, Long Bay, and stretching to the top of the picture, Whitefish Bay.

Thanks again to Philip Vrsnik, who sent me these pictures.

You’ll notice there’s next to no open water to speak of. Snow cover is patchy, but none of the ice has really started to darken.

I don’t have any pictures from Thursday; I got home late and it was cloudy. I have no flights on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, but I’m back in the air on Monday. Since they’re not forecasting any above freezing temperatures until then, I don’t think I’m going to miss much.

The fourteen day forecast is currently showing below normal temperatures right through to April 20, and not every day in the coming two weeks will rise above freezing. As springs go, this is shaping up to be a late one.

 

 

March 23, 2018: Whitefish Narrows

I was out yesterday, so just two quick pictures today.

First, I had some enquiries about the Sioux Narrows area.

This is the view looking west, with Long Bay stretching diagonally up from the lower left. The only open water anywhere in this picture is a tiny patch at Whitefish Narrows, near the center of the picture. You’ll have to click on the picture and zoom in to really see it. Whitefish Bay, Yellow Girl Bay and pretty much everything else is still frozen.

I doubt we have 1% open water on Lake of the Woods as a whole.

For a ray of hope, I’m throwing in this close-up of the open water closer to Kenora.

Looking north at Keewatin, we have Rat Portage Bay in the foreground, with Gun Club Island at the right edge of the photo. Like yesterday’s shot of this area, you can see that open water just reaches the west end of Yacht Club Island, near the center of the picture. There’s no great change in one day.

My real reason for including this shot is to show that the quality of the ice-or at least the snow cover on it- is deteriorating, with more slushy gray patches. This is easier to see than yesterday, when a mix of sunlight and cloud shadow made it hard to tell what you were looking at.

By the way, the ice roads look much darker today than when I started taking pictures ten days ago.

Random signs of spring: I saw some bear cubs a week and a half ago. No seagulls yet, but Caroline spotted three geese today.

 

April 6, 2017: Steady Progress

We came home in afternoon sunlight today, and approached Kenora from the south east.

Dogtooth Lake and area

This picture looks north, with Silver Lake in the distance. It’s all ice out that way.

Click on these pictures to see a larger, high-res version that is zoomable.

We didn’t go over Sioux Narrows, but we got close enough to see Whitefish Bay.

Whitefish Bay, Long Bay, Yellow Girl Bay.

If you click on this picture and zoom in, you can make out a little open water at Whitefish Narrows. Off in the distance, the Big Traverse is still frozen.

Now that we’ve established that there are vast expanses of ice, let’s get back to my preference for taking pictures where the water is.

The Elbow.

This picture looks west at the open water at the Elbow. East Allie Island is in front of the wing, then Allie Island, and beyond the water are Mathis Island and Shammis Island.

The biggest expanse of open water is still Keewatin Channel.

Keewatin Channel.

The picture above was taken from over Middle Island. Scotty Island and the distinctive Scotty’s Beach are at the lower left. Just above that, you can see that water is lapping at Anchor Island now.

Last, a closer look at the passage through Devil’s Gap.

Devil’s Gap.

Kenora is in the distance at the left in this shot that looks north. You still couldn’t really go very far through the Gap by boat, but you could make it to Nickerson Island, and Galt will be reachable soon.

That’s about it for my photos today, but Matthew Render snapped a few shots from his Air Canada A320 as he flew by at 37,000 feet.

Shoal Lake.

These are not zoomable. Matthew probably sent them straight from his smartphone.

First, Shoal Lake. All ice, except a little patch at the left edge.

This shot looks east, so you can see Clearwater Bay, Ptarmigan Bay and that area in the background.

 

Big Traverse.

The North West Angle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looks like there’s some water at the North West Angle. Thanks, Matthew.

That’s it for today.