May 11, 2022: Turning Point

With half the ice gone, I stop showing where the water is expanding, and start looking at where the ice is shrinking.

Technical notes:

I have added a link to the Navionics online map of Lake of the Woods to the right-hand sidebar, next door to the Satellite links. If you don’t recognize some of the place names I use, this zoomable map is a great help. When I’m writing Ice Patrol posts, I keep it open on a separate tab in case I need to check something. This is way easier than unfolding and refolding my many marine charts.

Ice Patrol is having some of its heaviest traffic ever. Recently, it’s been averaging over 2000 visits a day. Notably, there is a higher than normal proportion of visitors from the USA. I think they’ve missed us. Come on up!

I received more pictures yesterday than I could process. Here are Josh Broten’s lovely pictures from the south side of the lake.

You can click on these images to see a larger, zoomable version.

Looking SE over Buffalo Point. The ice is gone from Warroad to Buffalo and then narrows as you get to Rocky Point.

Over Buffalo Point looking NW. You can see Moose Lake is ice free.

Over Sand Point Bay looking SE. you can see of in the distance how the the lake is ice free from Rocky Point to Rainy River.

Looking NE over the NW Angle. Mostly open water from Oak Island and north.

Over Windigo Island looking NE. For the most part it is open water all the way past Tranquil Channel and Big Narrows.

Looking westward you can see Shoal Lake is still iced over.

Over Royal Island looking NE toward Kenora. Tranquil channel and Big Narrows are in the center of the picture.

Over Tranquil channel looking east over Sunset Channel.

Over Crescent Island looking north towards Kenora.

Over Yellow Girl Point looking Northerly towards Kenora. Lots of of Ice still between Kenora and the Alneau.

Another look to the west over sunset channel.

Looking east over Smith Island with Sioux Narrows in the distance. Lots of open water.

Josh is one of my favourite contributors. He edits his own pictures and even provides captions. Thanks, Josh!

Between Tom Hutton’s coverage of the east and north parts of the lake shown in yesterday’s post, and Josh Broten’s flight over the south and central parts, we’ve checked almost everything except the Ptarmigan and Clearwater Bays in the north west corner and Morson in the south east.

It looks as if we are now on track to have one of the fastest (and latest) thaws of this century. Once half the ice has melted, the remainder is floating loose at the mercy of the wind. With mid-May temperatures, it should be only a matter of days until it’s all gone. I looked back at 2014 to search for pictures showing an equivalent amount of ice cover at the same time of year, and I think we’re just five to seven days from total ice-out. A quick check of the MODIS archives from that similarly late spring suggests the same sort of timeline.

If this does become the fastest thaw in my records, there will be two main reasons. First, when the thaw starts late, it’s likely to run into warmer temperatures in late spring. So late starting thaws generally run faster than the ones that begin in March. Secondly, we’ve had an extraordinary amount of wet weather. A string of Colorado lows set records for precipitation in April and I think early May, too. And while you might be tempted to credit the rain for the rapid melt, meteorologists insist that it’s actually the high humidity that does the heavy lifting.

Signs of spring:

The floatplanes have been flocking in. River Air’s Caravan has been joined by a turbine Otter and a Beaver.

On a recent drive from the Kenora waterfront to Keewatin, I spotted another small plane near Q-104, meaning that I saw more  floatplanes in the water than boats. Most of the marinas had no boats at all at the docks, or just one or two. I expect that to change rapidly, as I have noticed a lot of boat trailers in the last few days, and the ice is letting go at many of the docks.

If you’re planning to put your boat in the water soon, don’t forget your safety equipment. Water traffic will be light at first, so if you have motor trouble you might have to wait a while for help. It is wise to take warm clothing with you.

Time for my annual reminder that when float planes are landing or taking off, they have the right of way over boats, because those stages of flight are critical. Safety Bay is a designated water aerodrome, so be alert there. Once a plane is on the water, it becomes a boat in the eyes of the law, and has the same right-of-way as other boat traffic. Having said that, floatplanes have no brakes and limited steering*, so I suggest giving them a wide berth.

*If you want to know how good a floatplane pilot is, you don’t watch them land. You watch them dock!

 

 

May 10, 2022: It’s Going Fast

Yesterday, Ice Patrol and I took a day off, as poor weather meant I had no pictures to share. I felt a warm spell and then wind and wet weather should have made a big difference, but I had no way to see how much, and I didn’t want to speculate.

But today the sun came out, and we got some answers. Both Aqua and Terra satellites got good shots with their MODIS equipment today.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Aqua satellite, May 10, 2022, in false colour.

There are big changes visible in the few hours between Aqua’s pass and Terra‘s.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Terra satellite, May 10, 2022, in false colour.

It looks as if the lake has lost about half of its ice. Normally, I’d say things should go fast from this point, but they already are!

The nice weather brought out the pilots, too, and I received a lot of pictures today. Tom Hutton had a chance to take a great series of pictures of the east side of the lake as he flew from Fort Frances to Kenora in sunny (but very bumpy) conditions.

You can click on Tom’s pictures to see larger, zoomable versions with more detail.

Nestor Falls.

Tom’s route brought him to Lake of the Woods at roughly Nestor Falls. Lots of water here now.

Then Whitefish Bay, which we seldom get pictures of.

Whitefish Bay.

In this shot, it looks like Whitefish Bay has entirely melted. But we need to take a closer look at the northern part of the bay.

Northern part of Whitefish Bay. Sioux Narrows is visible at the right, below the propeller blade tip.

Turns out there’s still extensive ice on the north half of Whitefish.

Whitefish Narrows.

Whitefish Narrows is just below the blade tip. These narrows are actually early to thaw, but this year it has taken some time for that open water to spread into Whitefish Bay.

West end of Long Bay and Yellow Girl Bay.

Still ice in Yellow Girl Bay. And plenty more to the north west.

The Barrier Islands and the Eastern Peninsula.

This shows almost the full stretch of the Barrier Islands. The Elbow is at the left, and French Narrows are near the middle. Lots of ice south of the Barrier Islands, which is typical. The distant ice is the Manitou.

West Manitou.

In the picture above, Birch Island is above the centre, and part of Whisky Island is at the right edge. Almost all ice here, as this is another late-thawing area.

 

East Manitou.

We’re getting closer to Kenora now. The curved beach at Scotty Island is just at the right edge of the frame.

Wildcat Island and Anchor Island.

Wildcat is in the centre. The foreground ice touches Hough Island and sticks to the shore of Thompson Island at the left. Holmstrom’s Marsh still looks icy.

Treaty Island.

Treaty Island dominates this picture, with Shragge’s Island just by the propeller spinner.* Notice how the ice roads are holding on between Treaty Island and Rogers Island, just above the engine nacelle.** Further left, by the tip of the propeller blade, the ice roads around Gun Club Island in Rat Portage Bay are breaking up and moving around. That’s significant, because Gun Club Island is usually late to break free.

*The shiny cover at the centre of the propeller is called the spinner. It’s like a hubcap, but very firmly attached.

**The streamlined fairings that cover the engines on a twin-engined airplane are the nacelles. On this King Air, the nacelles are painted white.

I wanted to see Pine Portage Bay, because Barb Enders sent me two pictures of Northern Harbour on the weekend. The first was taken just before noon on Friday. The second was taken on Sunday morning, just 46 hours later, and there was a spectacular change in the condition of the ice.

Pine Portage Bay.

Looks like the ice is still holding on there. At the right of the photo, you can see that Bigstone Bay is still ice-covered, too. Slow currents mean that Bigstone usually lags behind.

Our last shot from Tom shows the downtown Kenora waterfront and part of Coney Island. Thanks, Tom!

Coney Island.

There are still sizeable pans of ice south of Coney, around Goat Island and Johnson Island in Rat Portage Bay. Most years, once those were gone, the Coney Island footbridge would be removed to facilitate boat traffic. But not this year.

The Coney Island footbridge was damaged by wind and ice on Monday evening. You can read about it on Kenora Online.

So that’s one sign of spring we’ll have to do without this year, but there are others.

The first floatplane docked on the Kenora harbourfront today. River Air’s Caravan will be followed by more of their planes tomorrow. The pilots who brought it down from Minaki, Jamie Clemmens and Robyn Warken, took some pictures for me, but there were technical issues, and I’m still working on that.

Josh Broten took some pictures today, too, and they’ll round out the lake coverage with photos of the south west portion. It’s getting late, so I’ll put them up tomorrow morning.

Thanks everyone!

The weather outlook for the next while is a mixed bag, with more cloud and some showers. Temperatures will be mostly back to near normal, but with cooler conditions as the weekend arrives, naturally. Things should recover a bit a few days later.

May 5, 2022: Overview

So far this week, we’ve been looking at the lake one patch at a time. This morning, Jonathan O’Connor was aboard Air Canada’s flight AC259 from Toronto to Winnipeg. He sent in some photos.

Yes, you can click on these to see a larger version that you can zoom in on.

We’ll go from east to west, like Jonathan’s flight.

Whitefish Bay and Long Bay.

This is Whitefish Bay, and at the right of the photo is Highway 71. Don’t be fooled by the powerline, which is straighter and more obvious. The road is closer to the right edge, and much wigglier. Zoom in and you can see the open water at the  Sioux Narrows bridge. Because the camera is pointed down for this shot, it provides a good look at the condition of the ice, which looks soft.

Here’s his view of the northern part of Lake of the Woods.

North of the Alneau Peninsula.

In the foreground is the Alneau Peninsula. The Barrier Islands stretch across the middle of the frame, and if you look closely, you can see the big patch of open water at the Elbow. Above the middle to the right are Hay Island, Bigstone Bay and Longbow Lake. Towards the upper left, the water in Keewatin Channel is hard to distinguish from the land unless you zoom in. From high altitudes, the haze tends to make trees and water look a similar shade of blue, especially in the distance.

Big Narrows.

As the plane travelled west, Jonathan captured this view of Big Narrows that also shows Ptarmigan in the distance.

Thanks, Jonathan!

The continuing clear weather means there are new satellite images every day. I’ll put together a look at the whole week on Satellite Saturday, but in the meantime, here’s today’s shot from Terra.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Terra satellite, May 5, 2022, in false colour.

We also have a new drone Panorama from Paul Leischow.

As usual, clicking on the still image below will take you to a panorama that you can watch, or use your mouse to interact with.

Drone view of Keewatin Channel.

It’s worth mentioning that at this time of year, this whole area would usually be all open water, with lots of boat traffic.

Thanks, Paul!

Two things are happening on Friday: Sean will reveal how the actual weather and the changes to the weather forecast affect his graphs predicting the likely timing of ice-out.

I’ll be live on Q-104 with Ken O’Neil at 7:50am to talk about that, and how the sudden arrival of spring weather is changing things.

May 12, 2019: Sioux Narrows

Jason Sugimoto sent me these pictures from the Sioux Narrows area today, and a screen capture of a map to show where they were  taken.

Jason says: Was just out in Sioux Narrows and still some rotten ice in Whitefish Bay. Regina Bay looked ice free but didn’t venture too far into it.

Since this one shows the power line, it might be from the more northerly location.

Bear in mind that the aerial or satellite images you see at Google Maps are not current; they’re file images. The forest is not that green yet.

I think this picture’s from the more southerly area.

Jason says: The ice was quite rotten and was able to push through it slowly with the boat.

Thanks, Jason!

In other news, if you haven’t been reading the comments*, you may not have seen David Foerster’s report that Clearwater and Ptarmigan Bays are clear now.

*If you follow Lake of the Woods Ice Patrol primarily by email, you may miss some of the website’s extra features: comments, links, an archive of previous years, and the ability to scroll quickly to recent posts, or select them from a list. For all Ice Patrol has to offer, drop in on icepatrol.ca once in a while.

Signs of Spring: the snow is almost gone from the Seven Generations parking lot on Veteran’s Drive, the trees are finally starting to leaf out, and Safeway has put the ‘take a number’ dispenser back up at the deli. Seriously. They only use it in the summer.

 

May 7, 2019: Ding Dong, the Bridge is Gone

Caroline Armstrong texted me this morning to say the floating bridge to  Coney Island has been taken out. Here’s what it looked like from the Waterside dining room at the Clarion Inn.

This is a significant Sign of Spring, because the city removes the footbridge when the waterway is otherwise open from downtown Kenora through to Devil’s Gap.

This morning I departed from the Kenora airport without passengers, so I seized the opportunity to fly west to look at Clearwater Bay before turning on course.

You can click on any of today’s pictures to see a full-screen, zoomable version.

I’ll start with my standard shot of Rat Portage Bay and Safety Bay.

The only ice visible anywhere near the Kenora Harbourfront is that little patch by Gun Club Island, seen here in the distance above the windshield wiper arm.

We climbed westward, following the Trans-Canada past Woodlake Marine.

In this photo, White Partridge Bay is tucked in by the aircraft nose and wiper. Above the centre of the picture is the ice of Clearwater Bay, with Shoal Lake on the horizon.

This is as far west as we went, with the aircraft coming up on Corkscrew Island. Clearwater, at the right, is mostly ice-covered, but the shorelines are opening up. Zoom in for a look at Deception Bay, near the blurred propeller blade, or Woodchuck Bay, beyond Deception; they’re both open. At the left, by the wipers, Ptarmigan Bay is frozen all the way to Copper Island and Victoria Island.

As we began our turn on course, we got our best look at Shoal Lake.

Off the nose of the King Air are Echo Bay and Rush Bay; both are open, but if you zoom in, you can see a little floating ice pan on Rush Bay. Shoal Lake is top centre, and the ice isn’t covering the whole lake any more. North of Cash Island, Shoal Lake is open. Clytie Bay is partly open. Zoom in and look for the three finger-like points on Clytie’s north west shore; there’s ice to the south of them, and also on Bag Bay, next door.

We turned east to look at the Barrier Islands.

In this picture, the nose of the plane is on the Western Peninsula, with the Barrier Islands leading left. The big patch of water has spread out from The Elbow, between Mather Island and Allie Island. However, in this northern part of Lake of the Woods, there’s still more ice than open water. Whisky Island is at the left, partly chopped off at the edge of the frame.

We didn’t travel towards Sioux Narrows, but I did aim the camera south east.

This picture is centred roughly between Shore Island (half surrounded by water) and Ferrier Island (iced in). Beyond them you can see Long Bay stretching off to the left. It’s mostly open, although Yellow Girl Bay is still full of ice. At the top centre is Whitefish Bay, which is almost all ice.

That covers it for this morning’s pictures. I did take a couple on the way home. Yesterday’s pictures of Dryden weren’t very clear, so here’s a better shot of Wabigoon Lake.

As we approached Kenora, I was on the lookout for any significant developments, but it had only been about ten hours, and there really wasn’t much change.

So I’ll finish where I started, in downtown Kenora. Here’s a picture of where the bridge is not seen.

As you can see, although there are some remnants of ice road floating in Rat Portage Bay, just above the wing tip, the water’s open all the way to Devil’s Gap now.

Let the boating begin. Don’t forget to check your safety equipment.

April 27, 2019: Bruce White

I have another contribution from a passing Airline Pilot.

Bruce White sent me this shot taken from a Boeing 777. It arrived at 4:39 this morning, (Sunday the 28th) but it was taken yesterday, so I’m dating this post April 27.

You can click on this image to see a full-screen, zoomable version.

This picture is centred on Whitefish Bay, and looks north east. Long Bay stretches to the left edge of the frame, and you can track east to see Regina Bay, Lobstick Bay and Dogpaw Lake. Further back are Dryberry Lake, and Eagle Lake in the distance. Things in this region are almost entirely frozen, but the ice looks soft.

In the foreground is a northerly part of Sabaskong Bay around Splitrock Island. Somewhere between Sabaskong and Whitefish should be Obabikon Lake, but I cannot make it out in this picture. I think it must be open, with the haze causing the dark water to be indistinguishable from the dark land. I just checked the most recent satellite picture I posted, and that seems to be correct: the false-colour image shows Obabikon as ice-free. The satellite image also confirms that although the main part of Sabaskong Bay is open, there’s still ice north of Rabbit Island and Splitrock Island.

Thanks, Bruce!

 

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 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 9, 2019: Cold

The weather here in Kenora was good enough to go flying yesterday, but weather in the places we wanted to go was bad, with fog and freezing drizzle. Even if we had taken off, the cloud was too low for taking photographs.

Today we woke up to cold weather and little snow flurries. As I write this, in the late afternoon, the temperature has not risen above -4ºC. Worse, although we will see thawing daytime temperatures in the coming days, overnight lows are expected to remain cold for the rest of the week.

I heard from my friend Sean, who graphs the mean daily temperatures with an eye to making informed predictions, and he’s not sure we’ve reached the inflection point yet. That’s the date when our mean daily temperature rises above freezing on a lasting basis. It was looking like we might have managed this a few days ago, but if we have a run of cold days, the lasting part won’t hold up and we’ll have to wait a little longer.

Now, on to some fresh pictures. These are not in the order I took them, but we can start with the Norman to Keewatin waterfront.This is looking south over the lake, with Keewatin’s iconic bridge at the right in the middle distance. Remember, you can click on any of these images to see them full-screen, and click on that larger picture to see them at maximum resolution. What you might want to zoom in on here is the water beyond the bridge, where the weekend rain has weakened the ice between Safety Bay and Keewatin Channel.

The water in the foreground is Palmerston Channel, I believe. Darlington bay is almost hidden because the clouds kept us rather low today, obliging us to take pictures at a low angle.

Let’s look at the Winnipeg River next.This picture is centred on Laurenson’s Island, and looks roughly west with Locke Bay stretching away off to the left. There’s lots of open water in the main channel, but last nights sprinkling of snow has covered the ice in the quieter bays, making it hard to assess the quality of ice there.

Further north, this is what things look like at the Little Dalles.This picture looks north. Way off on the horizon, you can see Big Sand lake.

To finish, a couple of shots from further south on the lake. First, the Barrier Islands.A snow flurry blurred this picture, but this is the state of the open water around The Elbow. We’re facing west. Allie Island is on the left of centre*, Mather Island to the right. Bald Island is at the bottom left, and part of Queer Island is at the lower right corner. Most of the dark patches here are just cloud shadows, but the two bluer ones are water.

*I’ve set my spell-checker to Canadian English.

This last picture is of Whitefish Narrows.Yellow Girl Bay dominates the foreground, Long Bay spans the middle, and beyond that you can see a little water at Whitefish Narrows slightly to the right of centre. Again, a layer of fresh snow makes it hard to judge the ice.

As for the fourteen day forecast, it looks as if we have at least another few days of disappointing temperatures. A normal high this time of year is about 9ºC (and rising steadily), but I see nothing warmer than 7ºC coming our way in the next two weeks.  Overnight lows could run at or slightly above normal, but the daytime highs don’t look encouraging.

I’m not scheduled to fly tomorrow, so I might take a look at my archived pictures from previous years to see how this spring compares to better and worse thaws.

 

 

 

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.