May 9, 2018: Minaki

John Sweeney and Andy Zabloski flew today and returned from the north in the afternoon, so they helped me out with some pictures of the Minaki area.

Big Sand Lake, north of Minaki. Wind has driven the last of the ice to the shore.

You can click on any of these pictures to see a high-resolution, zoomable version.

The south end of Big Sand Lake and all of Sand Lake, with Minaki visible near the left side.

Sand Lake, with Minaki closer to the center of the picture. That white streak near the horizon is ice on Shoal Lake.

Winnipeg River, with Kenora in the distance, above the center of the photograph. The narrow lake near the top left corner is Lower Black Sturgeon, and the white patch at the top right corner is ice on the south part of Lake of the Woods.

In other news, the footbridge to Coney Island came out this morning. That’s scheduled when the waterway from downtown Kenora is otherwise open all the way to Devil’s Gap.

A quick glance at the start of my own flight at twilight revealed that there are some boats in the water at Northern Harbour. We didn’t look at more distant parts of the lake, because there wasn’t enough light to distinguish ice from water.

Satellite images from the last two days have not been good. I’d like to see what’s going on with ice on the southern parts of Lake of the Woods, but cameras on both Aqua and Terra satellites have been thwarted by cloud cover. Some parts of the lake can be glimpsed through gaps in the cloud, and do show the ice darkening, but we haven’t had a really clear image since May 7th.

Tomorrow I’m scheduled for a training flight, so I hope to get a better look around.

 

May 8, 2018: More Good News!

I got pictures from two more co-workers. Tom Hutton and James Biesenthal were flying together, and they both took pictures.

First, the ones from Tom Hutton.

The classic Keewatin waterfront shot to get us started. No more ice in Safety Bay.

Here’s a closer look at Crowe Island, Anglican Island and Channel Island. They’re all clear, but there’s ice out past Thompson Island.

This third picture shows Gun Club Island in the left foreground, then Treaty Island and Roger’s look joined together by the low angle. That’s Town Island in the middle distance, left of center. Beyond it, by Nantons Island, there’s still ice.

Now some pictures from James Biesenthal. There’s some overlap with Tom’s pictures, but I’ve selected a few that offer a different view.

This is the Winnipeg River, looking south with Locke Bay spanning the frame in the background.

Further south, James photographed the west channel of the river, with Keewatin in the distance.

Then Darlington Bay with Keewatin in the center of the picture.

Then from over the Keewatin bridge, this shot of the cluster of islands that include Mackie’s, Cameron, Cross, Kalamalka, Gourlay and Yacht Club islands. Further right, Turnbull Island and Rheault Bay. You’d have to zoom in to see the distant ice on the Manitou.

The last shot is of Treaty Island, with Shragge’s to the right of center and Channel Island at the wingtip. More to the left are Rogers, Galt, and Town Islands. There’s still enough ice to block passage to Scotty Island, but it won’t last long.

Monday’s high was 28.3°C, but Tuesday was quite a bit cooler, reaching just 13°C. By Wednesday night, the Weather Network forecast says we’ll be dipping down to 1°C, and rising to just 9°C on Thursday. I don’t think it will matter much: for Lake Dwellers near Kenora, the lake will be navigable.

Although cool, Thursday should also be sunny, so the satellite photographs will show if there’s any ice remaining by then. Some ice may persist on the south part of the lake for a few days longer. Shoal Lake is going fast, so it might go at the same time Lake of the Woods this year.

In case you missed seeing the reports in the comments section, Clearwater Bay is open, West Hawk Lake is open, and down by Sioux Narrows,  Long Bay is open.

May 3, 2018: Winnipeg River

My flight today didn’t take me over the lake or close to Minaki, but we did briefly fly north of Kenora, so I did manage a couple of shots of the Winnipeg River from the south end.

The first picture looks north west from over the north end of Dufresne Island. The white stuff near the nose of the airplane is just a wispy little cloud. Locke Bay and Muriel Lake are in the middle distance. Still some ice there.

For this second shot, we’ve turned more north, so you can see Big Sand and Gun Lake near the horizon. Both are frozen. Closer to the foreground are the mouth of Locke Bay and Laurenson’s Island. The streaky bits at the bottom are the same cloud as in the previous picture.

That’s as close to Minaki as we went before we needed to turn towards the airport.

This is Lower Black Sturgeon, seen from the west. The ice there is melting along the shore and looks like it could go completely in the next few days if we stay warm and sunny. Silver Lake, visible in the distance, is a deep lake and will take much longer.

Kenora has three suburban lakes: Rabbit Lake, Round Lake and Laurenson’s Lake. I photographed Laurenson’s the other day, and it was starting to go. Today Round Lake, the smallest of the three,  went completely in a matter of hours. In the morning it was icy. By lunchtime it was opening up, after lunch there was only a small patch of candled ice at the downwind end.

I will be out of town for the weekend starting tomorrow, so there will be no fresh pictures for a few days. I won’t have access to my desktop computer, only my tablet,  so I will be limited  guest photos, if there are any, and updating the satellite links.

I expect the thaw will carry on without me.

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 23, 2018: What a Weekend!

It was a warm weekend; at one point we hit 15.7°C, which I think is the first time we’ve seen an above normal temperature since sometime in March. It was also windy, which helps when it comes to melting ice.

At six o’clock this morning, I started my day by heading down to the ice road landing at the Kenora MNR.

This is what it looked like at dawn. The ice at the shoreline was so thin I easily punched through it with my hiking staff. I hear two trucks went through the ice this weekend, but I haven’t had time to look into when or where.

At eight o’clock, I made a hasty appearance at Q-104 to talk about the ice conditions and the effect the warm weather has had.

At nine o’clock, I flew north, and took some pictures on the way out of Kenora.

Airborne off runway 26 and heading west, this is downtown Kenora in the foreground. The picture is roughly centered on Coney Island, with Rat Portage Bay to the left. There is much more open water now, especially in Safety Bay, right of center.

Around two o’clock, we came home again.

This shot shows how much the Winnipeg River has opened up. The main channel has opened up north of the Dalles pretty much all the way through to Minaki.

The satellite images have been showing thin ice at the west end of Clearwater Bay.

Don’t forget you can click on this picture to see the larger, high resolution version, and you can zoom in on that for a better look at Ptarmigan Bay and the far end of Clearwater.

I also wanted to check out the water by the Keewatin Bridge.

There’s just a little rotten ice between Safety Bay and Keewatin Channel now.

Here’s the same area seen from the south as we turned towards the airport.

Looking north at the Keewatin and Norman waterfront. That’s Crowe Island on the wingtip, and I think that passage could be open tomorrow.  If things look a little odd to the right of Gun Club Island, it’s because one of our pesky propeller blades photo-bombed the shot.

All in all, an excellent amount of progress for one weekend. There’s been an encouraging change in the fourteen day forecast at The Weather Network. For next weekend, instead of highs of about 7°C, they’re now calling for 11° on Saturday and 17° on Sunday. I take this as a personal favour, because my sister is visiting from England. Before and after that, though, there’s still talk of below-normal temperatures, and I hate to tell you this, but the first days of May might bring a mix of rain and snow showers.

I hope all these swings will average out and leave us roughly on track.

April 19, 2018: Factors

I thought if we saw any change today, it would be on the river, where the current is strong. That did seem to be the case north of Minaki, but closer to Kenora, the changes were less dramatic, so just one photograph today.

Here’s a look at the Dalles. That’s Shoal Lake way off in the upper left. For those of you waiting for things to open up around Myrtle Rapids, not yet.

Yesterday I wrote about Sean’s data-based approach to spring versus my observational one. I got some cool feedback in the comments today, so I’m going to put them up here for everyone to see.

First, this one from Stu Everett on whether strong currents help the thaw go faster.

You mention that the analysis does not take a look at current, and how that impacts the length of time from inflection date to ice out. I took a look at the historical outflows from the LOW on the LOW Control Board site. There are some years around the end of March that have relatively high outflows, and others with low outflows. 2016 had very high outflows (most since 2006), and yet the length of time from inflection to ice out was the longest period shown on the graph. Similarly, 2010 was a higher than normal current (outflow) year, yet it too had a long period from inflection to thaw.
This surprises me, my gut feel was that high current flows would quickly show up in the data as a major influence. Apparently that is not the case, at least according to my admittedly brief review of the data.
However, my observation is that this year is shaping up very like 2014. That year, current flows were a bit higher than normal, and actually were on the increase through April. In contrast, current flows this year were lower than average, and have decreased this month. So, if current has any impact, one could speculate that the period from inflection date to ice out will be longer this year than in 2014, if one controlled for other variables. Given that 2014 was about an average year of 32 days, that would suggest that your estimate of less than 4.5 weeks might be a case of “whistling past the graveyard”. But I share your optimism and hope with all my might that my analysis is flawed…

Then a reminder from Matt DeWolfe about the false-colour images available from the MODIS camera on the Aqua satellite.

I find the MODIS Aqua band quite informative for seeing open water, and perhaps ice thickness. Below you can see much of the Winnipeg River open (as well as Rainy River).
https://worldview.earthdata.nasa.gov/?p=geographic&l=MODIS_Aqua_CorrectedReflectance_Bands721,VIIRS_SNPP_CorrectedReflectance_TrueColor(hidden),MODIS_Terra_CorrectedReflectance_TrueColor(hidden),Aqua_Orbit_Asc,AMSR2_Snow_Water_Equivalent(hidden),Reference_Labels(hidden),Reference_Features(hidden),Coastlines&t=2018-04-18&z=3&v=-96.22655332947613,48.32770514383812,-92.53514707947613,50.26129889383812
[cid:image001.png@01D3D7CE.8B9AF720]
MODIS (Aqua) Corrected Reflectance (Bands 7,2,1)
Temporal Coverage: 3 July 2002 – present
False Color: Red = Band 7, Green = Band 2, Blue = Band 1
This combination is most useful for distinguishing burn scars from naturally low vegetation or bare soil and enhancing floods. This combination can also be used to distinguish snow and ice from clouds. Snow and ice are very reflective in the visible part of the spectrum (Band 1), and absorbent in Bands 2 (near infrared) and 7 (short-wave infrared, or SWIR). Thick ice and snow appear vivid sky blue, while small ice crystals in high-level clouds will also appear blueish, and water clouds will appear white.
Water
Liquid water on the ground appears very dark since it absorbs in the red and the SWIR. Sediments in water appear dark blue. Ice and snow appear as bright turquoise. Clouds comprised of small water droplets scatter light equally in both the visible and the SWIR and will appear white. These clouds are usually lower to the ground and warmer. High and cold clouds are comprised of ice crystals and will appear turquoise.
Today’s Aqua image is a bit blurry, so I’ll use yesterday’s false-colour image to show you what he means.
The open water of the Winnipeg River really pops on this picture, and you can see how the river’s main channel is open far beyond Minaki and Big Sand Lake all the way up through Umfreville Lake and beyond. The rusty-looking patch near the south end of the river is Kenora, and the two patches of dark water near it are Safety Bay and Keewatin Channel. The wishbone-shaped patch of open water near the center of the picture is Big Narrows, and the tiny dark patch halfway down the right side is Whitefish Narrows. If you need more help figuring out what you’re looking at, head over to my FAQ page, then scroll down to the bottom to see a natural-colour image with some of the key features on and around Lake of the Woods labelled.

April 16, 2018: Same Old

Today’s pictures are almost identical to Friday’s. We came in to Kenora on the same flight path, and nothing has changed.

When there’s a bit more open water developing, I’ll make a greater effort to range further out over the lake. For now, there’s nothing new to see.

Winnipeg River.

The Dalles, Myrtle Rapids. No significant change. In the distance, at the top of the picture, Shoal Lake, (on the right) and the US side of LotW (top center) are still pure white.

The powerline crossing.

No change.

Kenora to Keewatin.

No change.

Safety Bay.

No change. Note that you still cannot get a boat from Safety Bay to Channel Island, and that even the new ice near the Keewatin bridge has not melted.

However, I have high hopes for things to take a turn for the better tomorrow. Right now the forecast is calling for a high on Tuesday of about 7°C, and although temperatures sink a little on Wednesday, by the end of the week, we might be staying at or above freezing overnight. If that holds true, we should start to turn the corner.

Another guest contribution! Here’s a chart from John Harbottle, giving the ice-out dates he’s recorded for Kendall Inlet and Clearwater Bay.

John points out that the dates correspond well with the Bigstone Bay data from Madeleine Dreger. That makes sense to me, because both Bigstone and Clearwater are rather late melters.

Neither satellite has captured a cloud-free picture of Lake of the Woods since April 13, so I have not updated the link. Reminder: the sidebar and links do not appear in the emails, they are a feature of the full Ice Patrol website.

I am flying tomorrow, but I don’t really expect one warmer afternoon to make a visible difference. And remember, daytime highs in the single digits are still below normal for this time of year. But maybe we’ll lose some of that snow cover by the weekend- that would be nice.