December 5, 2013
The Weather Notebook has this to say about Ice Volcanoes:
Ice volcanoes can form during winter on the Great Lakes. They are not lava-spewing mountains of ice, but water-spouting ice cones.
As winter ice begins to build along the shores of large lakes such as Lake Superior, it is jostled, broken, and shifted by the winds and wave motions on the waters. When winds blow onshore, they can build an ice shelf, a jumble of ice chunks that anchors on the shore but extends some distance back into the water. Amongst the numerous ice blocks comprising a shelf, many open tunnels lead back to the lake waters.
To build a good ice volcano cone, the surface air temperature must be several degrees below freezing and lake waves should be several feet high and breaking onshore. As the waves strike the edge of the ice shelf, pulses of wave energy flow beneath the ice. Upon reaching the open end of a tunnel, the wave forces water to erupt out through the ice. If the hole has been covered with snow, the eruption may spray snow outward like a volcanic gas cloud.
As the ejected water falls back onto the ice, it quickly freezes and begins the formation of an ice cone, a process very similar to the building of a lava cone surrounding a geologic volcanic vent. A study of ice volcanoes on Lake Superior’s southern shore by students from Michigan Tech measured ice cones ranging from three to 25 feet in height.
Like rock volcanoes, ice volcano vents can heal over and become dormant during periods of low wave action. They lie in wait for a strong wave surge to awaken them back to explosive activity.
More icy goodness on Michigan in Pictures.
December 4, 2013
November 23, 2013
Many in Michigan are waking up to frigid temps, high wind and snow – the perfect conditions for lake effect snow. Meteorologist Robert J. Ruhf has an excellent article on Lake-Effect Precipitation in Michigan that explains lake effect snow and rain are common in Michigan, especially in late fall and early winter as cold polar air moves across the warmer Great Lakes.
The unfrozen waters are relatively warm when compared with the temperature of the wintertime air mass. Therefore, the temperature of the air that comes into contact with the water increases. The warmed air expands and become less dense, which causes it to rise. This is an “unstable” situation. As the air rises, the temperature decreases until it reaches the dew point, which is the temperature at which the air becomes saturated.. Ice crystals or water droplets will then begin to collect until the force of gravity pulls them down. The result is “lake-effect” precipitation. When the cP air mass is very cold, as is often the case between December and February, the precipitation falls as snow. During late autumn, however, the polar air mass may be warm enough for the precipitation to fall in the form of rain.
“Lake-effect” precipitation can cause substantial intensification of snowfall amounts in very narrow bands, often referred to as “snow belts,” along the leeward (downwind) shores of the Great Lakes. The prevailing wind direction in the Great Lakes region is westerly; therefore, most “lake-effect” precipitation events occur to the east of the lakes.
…An interesting feature of “lake-effect” is that the heaviest bands of snow do not usually occur along the immediate shoreline, but tend to fall several miles inland. Snowfall accumulations are enhanced inland because the air experiences more uplift when it is forced over hills and higher terrain.
Read on to learn lots more about lake effect snow in Michigan including four narrow bands - Keweenaw Peninsula, Leelanau Peninsula, the Thumb and the southwest Lower Peninsula - where geographic features and the shape of the shoreline contribute to more intense snowfall. Hang on to your hats – winter is here!
Need a winter background?
November 13, 2013
We’ve covered the Haunting of Seul Choix Lighthouse on Michigan in Pictures. Dave Wobster has an article on Seul Choix Light at Boatnerd.com. He writes that Seul Choix (“only choice” as the only safe harbor in the area) was popular with Native Americans as early as the 1600s due to the abundant whitefish and lake trout that were waiting to be caught in Lake Michigan. A fishing village was established in the mid 1800s and a trading post around 1850.
The early navigation aids along the northern Lake Michigan coast were the lighthouses at St. Helena Island (1872) and Peninsula Point (1866). This left a 100-mile gap of dark shoreline with Seul Choix Bay located near the middle. Efforts were soon started to have a lighthouse constructed on Seul Choix Point. The efforts were successful in 1886 when Congress appropriated $15,000 to build a light tower and fog signal on the point. Another $8,000 was added before the project was completed. Various complications and the rebuilding of the original tower delayed completion of the station.The light was first shown in August, 1892, but the complex was not completed until 1895 with the finishing of the fog signal building. The complex consisted of the present conical 78-foot tower and attached 2-story keeper’s dwelling, a steam fog signal building, stable, boathouse, two oil storage buildings, a brick privy, and boat dock and tramway to the fog signal building.
The keeper’s dwelling was expanded in 1925 with a lean-to addition to the west side. The interior living space was divided with a wall to provide equal space for an additional family. The wall has since been removed, but the building still contains two kitchen areas. Particular attention should be paid to the unique rounded gables on the east end of the dwelling. While they are reminiscent of a sailing schooner stern, history does not provide a reason for this detail.
The 78-foot high white conical tower is the typical elaborate “Poe-Style” named after General Orlando M. Poe who provided the original design. The Poe-style light towers are easily recognized by the ornate brackets which support the gallery around the lantern room and the four windows below the gallery which have semi-circular stone arch head pieces.
Read on for more including some photos of Seul Choix details at Boatnerd.com. The Seul Choix Pointe Lighthouse is maintained by the Gulliver Historical Society and you can get a lot more info (and a snippet of a cool song that plays when you load) at their site.
Bill took this shot in 1997 with Plustek OpticFilm 7600. He writes that Seul Choix is located on the north shore of Lake Michigan a little east of Manistique. View his photo background big and see more in his great Lighthouses slideshow.
Many (many) more Michigan lighthouses at Michigan in Pictures!
November 11, 2013
Last week’s Leelanau Enterprise is reporting that October 2013 had the lowest number of Sleeping Bear Dunes visitors in a decade - an impressive testimony to the impact of our recent government shutdown. You’ll be able to read the article in a month … when it’s no longer news I guess.
More dunes on Michigan in Pictures.
November 7, 2013
100 years ago today the most devastating storm in Great Lakes history began. It raged across the Great Lakes from November 7-10, 1913. As NOAA’s commemorative website explains:
In November of 1913 the Great Lakes were struck by a massive storm system combining whiteout blizzard conditions and hurricane force winds. The storm lasted for four days, during which the region endured 90 mile per hour winds and waves reaching 35 feet in height. With only basic technology available, shipping communication and weather prediction systems were not prepared for a storm of such devastating force. When the skies finally cleared, the Great Lakes had seen a dozen major shipwrecks, an estimated 250 lives lost, and more than $5 million in damages (the equivalent of more than $117 million today).
Nicknamed the “White Hurricane” and the ‘Freshwater Fury” the 1913 storm remains the most devastating natural disaster to ever strike the Great Lakes. One hundred years later, NOAA commemorates the Storm of 1913 not only for the pivotal role it plays in the history of the Great Lakes but also for its enduring influence. Modern systems of shipping communication, weather prediction, and storm preparedness have all been fundamentally shaped by the events of November 1913.
October 5, 2013
7 years ago I shared the story of the Southdown Challenger on Michigan in Pictures. I was happy to see that the oldest operational freighter on the Great Lakes is still in action. The feature on the St. Marys Challenger on Boatnerd.com begins:
Currently holding the honors of being the oldest lake boat still trading on the Great Lakes, the self unloading cement carrier St. Marys Challenger was built as a traditional Great Lakes bulk carrier as hull #17 by Great Lakes Engineering Works, Ecorse (Detroit), MI in 1906. This veteran of the lakes was launched February 7, 1906 as the William P. Snyder for Shenango Steamship & Transportation Co. (subsidiary of Shenango Furnace Co.), Cleveland, OH. Retaining her original overall dimensions, the St. Marys Challenger is now powered by a Skinner Marine Unaflow 4 cylinder reciprocating steam engine burning heavy fuel oil rated at 3,500 i.h.p. (2,611 kW) with 2 water tube boilers. The power is fed to a single fixed pitch propeller and the vessel is equipped with a bow thruster. The vessel is capable of carrying 10,250 tons (10,415 mt) in 8 holds at mid summer draft of 21’09” (6.63m). Cargoes of bulk or powdered cement can be unloaded by a fully automated system including air slides, conveyor equipment and bucket elevators feeding a forward mounted 48’ (14.63m) discharge boom.
Of note, the St. Marys Challenger is one of only two remaining U.S. flagged vessels still active on the Great Lakes to be powered by the classic Skinner Marine Unaflow steam engine. The other vessel is the car ferry Badger (2) which is powered by two of these engines and, in turn, remains as the only coal fired vessel still in active service on the Great Lakes. The only remaining Canadian-flagged steamer powered by a Canadian-built (Vickers) Skinner Unaflow engine is the James Norris.
Many more Michigan ships & boats on Michigan in Pictures!
October 1, 2013
A taste of the Shutdown’s impact on Michigan via Leelanau.com…
The TC Ticker reports that the federal government shutdown that began at midnight has closed portions of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore:
A park representative said gates will be closed on the park’s campgrounds, bathrooms and popular Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive until the shutdown ends, though visitors may still access the park’s hiking trails and lakeshore. (our emphasis)
Sleeping Bear Dunes is one of five national parks in Michigan affected by the shutdown, a move that comes at an unfortunate time for tourism-dependent parks nearing the end of their operating seasons. The Leelanau County attraction, which will operate with a skeleton crew of emergency-only personnel until the shutdown has ceased, normally averages 2,300 visitors a day during the fall season, according to park reports.
The Freep reports that a similar scenario will unfold at other Michigan National Parks with Isle Royale & River Raisin Battlefield Park closing early for the season. Let me stress that you can still enjoy the majority of our parks and trails. In other Michigan-specific news, about 900 Michigan National Guard members are bracing for a furlough notice and training for another 12,000 will be put on hold. More details on the shutdown’s impact on Michigan at mLive.
September 24, 2013
Located just off the mainland coast of Lake Michigan’s east coast, a group of islands known as the Beaver Archipelago form a chain which marked the western edge of a tight passage along the coast. Known as the “Manitou Passage,” vessel masters taking this narrow passage were able to reduce the travel distance between the ports of Lake Michigan’s southern shore and the Straits of Mackinac by sixty miles, as opposed to taking the more circuitous route through open water to the west of the islands. As the most southerly of this chain of islands, South Manitou also featured one of the areas safest natural harbors, and with 5,260-acres of fine timber growth covering the island, it is not surprising that a few enterprising settlers arrived during the mid 1830’s to sell firewood to steamers taking shelter in the harbor when things turned sour out in the lake. By the late 1830’s it was commonplace to find upward of fifty vessels crowded into the harbor seeking refuge and taking-on supplies when things turned sour out in the lake.
Lying a scant few miles west of Sleeping Bear Point, mariners were hard pressed to locate the southern entrance to the busy passage at night or in times of thick weather, and a cry arose throughout the maritime community to light the southern entrance to the passage. Taking up their call on February 19, 1838, Michigan State Representative Isaac Crary entered a motion before the House of Representatives to erect a lighthouse on South Manitou, and fully cognizant of the vital role played by maritime commerce in the area, Congress responded quickly with an appropriation of $5,000 for the station’s construction on July 7 of that same year.
You can read on at Seeing the Light for the troubled saga of this light which saw high keeper turnover and some tragedy in its long tenure before being decommissioned in 1958. There’s also historical photos like this one showing the structure in full operation.
Many more lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures!
September 18, 2013
I tried to find something amazing about Lake Michigan – a poem, a legend, anything – but I really couldn’t find something to match up with this stunning photo. I’ll fall back on the real & urgent need to protect the beauty of Lake Michigan and the rest of the Great Lakes from the very real threat of Asian carp.
Asian carp just suck: massive, leaping fish that seriously injure boaters and eat everything else in the lake. They would be an apocalypse for the $7 billion Great Lakes fishing industry, and it is estimated that just 20 fish getting in would be all it would take.
So of course, yesterday John Flesher (IMO the best environmental journalist in the Great Lakes who also happens to be my neighbor) wrote an article on Asian carp that begins:
The recent discovery of a large Asian carp near Chicago underscores the need to protect the Great Lakes from the voracious fish and other invasive species that could slip into Lake Michigan, two members of Congress said Tuesday.
“If Asian carp are not stopped before they enter the Great Lakes, they could destroy the ecosystem, as well as the boating and fishing industries, and hundreds of thousands of jobs,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat.
…John Goss said the 53-inch, 82-pound fish was caught about a month ago in Flatfoot Lake, on the Illinois-Indiana state line.
Flatfoot Lake is landlocked and surrounded by a berm that would prevent it from flooding and enabling Asian carp to escape, said Chris McCloud, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
But it’s very close to Chicago’s Lake Calumet, where commercial fishermen landed a 3-foot-long Asian carp in 2010 about six miles from Lake Michigan. Lake Calumet and Lake Michigan are connected by the Calumet River.
The latest find “is another reminder that we must find a permanent solution to protect the Great Lakes,” Rep. Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican, said Tuesday.
Indeed. How about we work on that? The Great Lakes are far too beautiful to be filled with the likes of Asian carp. If you agree, please share this with others. We can do something about this threat to our lakes.
Check this photo out background bigtacular, see more in Dave’s slideshow and also check out his photography website, Marvin’s Gardens including a shot of what I’m pretty sure was his breakfast up on Brevort Lake!
Regrettably, there’s more Asian carp on Michigan in Pictures.