Ludington State Park Ridge Trail

Ludington State Park, Ridge Trail, photo by otisourcat

If it seems to you that fall colors are more erratic this year than usual, it’s not all in your head! The Great Lakes Echo feature by Juliana Moxley titled Last winter’s cold legacy: Fall colors slower to peak explains (in part) that last winter’s extreme cold is the culprit:

The harsh 2014 winter is partly to blame, said Bert Cregg, a professor in the department of horticulture at Michigan State University.

We are still having a good fall color season in Michigan, but we are likely to see some trees in full color while others are just beginning to turn, he said.

“As you’ll recall, last winter was extremely cold — one of the coldest winters on record,” Cregg said. “The winter stress delayed leaf-out for many trees, and then the tree’s timing was further delayed by a cold rather than normal spring.”

A warming climate can also affect fall color, said Howard Neufeld, a professor in the department of biology at Appalachian State University in North Carolina. Higher temperatures, altered timing and/or amounts of precipitation, changes in humidity, changes in cloud cover, increases in the length of the growing season and higher levels of nitrogen inputs in the ecosystem can all affect fall color variance.

“Increased precipitation means that light levels are most likely lower, and trees will do less photosynthesis,” Neufeld said. “With less photosynthesis, there are fewer sugars in the leaves. Warmer temperatures mean higher respiration rates, and more sugars will be metabolized.”

You can read on for lots more including an explanation of the scientific processes that impact color change.

The photo above by otisourcat shows that patchy color well. See it bigger and see more in their slideshow. More about the trail and park in the Ludington State Park guide.

More Michigan trails and more science on Michigan in Pictures!

Foggy morning, photo by Jiqing Fan

Wikipedia says that Portage Lake is part of the Keweenaw Waterway, a partly natural, partly artificial waterway that cuts across the Keweenaw Peninsula to provide access for shipping from Lake Superior. If you click the link you can get an aerial view.

View Jiqing Fan’s photo bigger and see more in his massive Houghton & UP MI slideshow. He writes:

Saw the fog on Lake Portage from my apartment window after I woke up today. I knew the potential this fog can bring so I darted down to the lake shore. But the fog was so heavy that the foliage on the other bank were completely blocked. Just when I was about to give up and head back for school, the fog started to break as the sun rises. And then the magic started to unfold before my eyes. Soon the fog lifted and fill the campus uphill, the entire campus was bathed in soft morning light and there were Tyndall effect everywhere! I can not think of a better way to start a day of work.

What’s the Tyndall effect you ask? The UC Davis ChemWiki explains that the Tyndall effect was identified by 19th Century Irish scientist John Tyndall.

Because a colloidal solution or substance (like fog) is made up of scattered particles (like dust and water in air), light cannot travel straight through. Rather, it collides with these micro-particles and scatters causing the effect of a visible light beam. This effect was observed and described by John Tyndall as the Tyndall Effect.

The Tyndall effect is an easy way of determining whether a mixture is colloidal or not. When light is shined through a true solution, the light passes cleanly through the solution, however when light is passed through a colloidal solution, the substance in the dispersed phases scatters the light in all directions, making it readily seen.

For example, light is not reflected when passing through water because it is not a colloid. It is however reflected in all directions when it passes through milk, which is colloidal. A second example is shining a flashlight into fog or smog; the beam of light can be easily seen because the fog is a colloid.

Yay science!

Lake of the Clouds from the Escarpment Trail, Porcupine Mountains

Lake of the Clouds from the Escarpment Trail, Porcupine Mountains, photo by Linda Carter

Linda writes that this photo is taken about 400 feet above Lake of the Clouds on the Escarpment Trail, which starts at Lake of the Clouds Overlook. She says that if you go the whole loop it’s 8 miles, but 2 or 3 miles along the trail you get the most beautiful views of the Lake.

Agreed!

View her photo bigger and see more in her Porkies slideshow.

There’s at the Porcupine Mountain State Park website including a map of the Escarpment Trail & Lake of the Clouds area and more Lake of the Clouds on Michigan in Pictures!

Sandhill Liftoff

October 17, 2014

10-8 HDR 1e_Fotor

10-8 HDR 1e_Fotor, photo by Gregg Mulholland

Apparently the control tower likes to get those birds airborne.

Definitely check Gregg’s shot out big as the sky and roll through his Sandhill Cranes slideshow for more.

Wooly Weatherman

October 15, 2014

Hmmm...thick or thin? And what does it mean anyways?

Hmmm…thick or thin? And what does it mean anyways?, photo by dan bruell

Predicting Winter Weather: Woolly Bear Caterpillars at the Farmer’s Almanac says that in 1948, Dr. C. H. Curran, curator of insects at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City sought to determine the average number of reddish-brown segments and use that to forecast the coming winter weather. For eight years, he continued to try and prove scientifically a weather rule of thumb that the wider that middle brown section is (and the more brown segments there are) the milder the coming winter will be, while a narrow brown band means a harsh winter.

Between 1948 and 1956, Dr. Curran’s average brown-segment counts ranged from 5.3 to 5.6 out of the 13-segment total, meaning that the brown band took up more than a third of the woolly bear’s body. As those relatively high numbers suggested, the corresponding winters were milder than average. But Curran was under no scientific illusion: He knew that his data samples were small. Although the experiments popularized and, to some people, legitimized folklore, they were simply an excuse for having fun. Curran, his wife, and their group of friends escaped the city to see the foliage each fall, calling themselves The Original Society of the Friends of the Woolly Bear.

…Mike Peters, an entomologist at the University of Massachusetts, doesn’t disagree, but he says there could, in fact, be a link between winter severity and the brown band of a woolly bear caterpillar. “There’s evidence,” he says, “that the number of brown hairs has to do with the age of the caterpillar—in other words, how late it got going in the spring. The [band] does say something about a heavy winter or an early spring. The only thing is . . . it’s telling you about the previous year.”

Read on for more!

View Dan’s photo background bigtacular and see more in his Fall 2014 slideshow.

More weather on Michigan in Pictures!

Fall Morning

October 14, 2014

Fall Morning

Fall Morning, photo by Steve

I bet your day starts out pretty well with a view like this.

View Steve’s photo bigger and see more in his LX7 slideshow.

Fall Chickadee

October 13, 2014

Fall Chickadee

Fall Chickadee, photo by kdclarkfarm1

The UM Animal Diversity Web’s entry for Parus atricapillus (black-capped chickadee) says in part:

Black-capped chickadees prefer deciduous woodlands, open woods and parks, cottonwood groves, and willow thickets. They are most commonly seen near edges of wooded areas. They are a frequent visitor to backyard feeders. Black-capped chickadees nest in cavities, usually in dead trees or stumps, and are attracted to habitats with suitable nesting locations. During the winter, small flocks of black-capped chickadees can be found in dense conifer forests.

…Black-capped chickadees hop on trees (occasionally on the ground), rather than “walking.” These birds are very active during the day, and can often be seen foraging upside-down. Black-capped chickadees form monogamous pairs which usually stay together for several years. The black-capped chickadee social system has two extremes, one shown by territorial pairs during the breeding season, and the other consisting of non-breeding flocks. These are often mixed species flocks including nuthatches, woodpeckers, kinglets, brown creepers, warblers, and vireos. Black-capped chickadees perform short-distance migrations, but remain in the same general region throughout the year.

Read on for lots more including photos and chickadee calls.

View Diane’s photo background big and see lots more autumn goodness in her Fall slideshow.

More birds and more Fall wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures.

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