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.

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.