Sunday, March 8, 2009
It ain't spring yet!
Last Thursday the NOAA satellite took a bunch of photos of the ice on Lake Superior and AstroBob discovered them and linked them on his blog site. I also attached a Goggle Earth image to help make the scale and locations more apparent. What's very apparent is that winter is far from over on Gitchee Gumee and that there is still a ton, several tons actually, of ice on the lake.
Ice cover is crucial on Gitchee Gumee. In addition to creating that famed ice road from Bayfield to Madeline Island, a substantial cover of ice on the lake slows down evaporation and keeps the lake level higher. Its been pretty low the last couple of years and my guess is that we will gain back a bit of what was lost with a good ice year like this one. The lake rarely freezes over completely and speculation is that when it froze completely in 1940, wolves on the Canadian mainland took the opportunity to stroll out to Isle Royale. The predator/prey relationship between the moose and wolves out there has been studied extensively since 1958 and is the longest running study of a wildlife population in the world. And lets not forget our old buddies the ice fisherman. Click on the map and you can see that the Apostle Islands and Chequamagon Bay are pretty much iced in solid, with 2'-3' of ice in many spots. This is enough ice to support a railroad boxcar. The problem is that the ice tends to crack and move around a lot, a fact thats clearly visible in the image as well. Thats precisely how the guys on Lake Erie got their little ride on the ice flow last month. From the looks of the picture, it would appear a person could paddle off Duluth harbor or along the north shore if they were OK with 32F (oC) water and air temp that is significantly less than that most of the time. The problem is that a steady south wind would push most of those floating pieces of ice right up against the north shore. It would be really good to have a landing spot picked out because if that happened the shore would look kind of like this..........
I think I'll wait until there are just little chunks of ice floating around in the lake. The local lakes and the rivers will have opened up well before Lake Superior and that has satisfied me in past years. Still, when I'm skiing at Spirit Mountain in Duluth and look down at all that open water just off the breakwater that marks the entry to the ship canal, I do get that urge to throw a boat in. Who knows, this might be the year.