Textures of Sleeping Bear Dunes

Textures, photo by JamesEyeViewPhotography

View the photo from the Sleeping Bear Dunes background bigtacular, see more in James’ The Great Lakes slideshow, and follow James Eye View Photography on Facebook.

2017 Chicago to Mackinac Sailing Race

Absolute Chicago-Mackinac, photo by Jim Sorbie

When I wandered down to Fishtown in Leland yesterday afternoon, the number one topic of conversation was the annual Chicago to Mackinac sailing race. The 333-mile race from Chicago’s Navy Pier to Mackinac Island is kind of a big deal in communities along Michigan’s western coast like mine. I almost always know a couple of people who are racing, and after the race gets underway, you’ll hear a lot of speculation about the time that the boats will enter the Manitou Passage and then what time they’ll finish at Mackinac Island.

One of the things that’s particularly cool to me is that the Chicago to Mac is one of the few events that ties the whole community to the weather and condition of Lake Michigan. People will take boats out to watch them, or climb Pyramid Point or Whaleback for a view of the boats if they stream past when it’s light out. If you’re within distance of a community like Leland, Frankfort, Ludington, Elk Rapids or up near the Mackinac Bridge, consider checking out likely times boats will pass, grab the binoculars and see if you can get a glimpse of the racers.

Jim writes: Summer Flashback – We’re trying desperately to pass an old friend on the run in to the Island – no luck!

View his photo from near the end of the 2013 race photo background bigtacular and see more in his Mac Races (Chicago & Port Huron) slideshow.

PS: Definitely check out their 2016 Race Photo Contest winning photo!

Update from the Lake Michigan Whale Migration Station

First Whale of the Season, photo by Lake Michigan Whale Migration Station

The Lake Michigan Whale Migration Station has posted the first “confirmed” sighting of a whale for the summer of 2017:

This is the first confirmed whale sighting of the season on Lake Michigan. We appreciate the photo, however we strongly advise against getting this close to a whale. The kayak party from Lombard, IL spent the 4th of July weekend near Good Hart, MI. They reported seeing from the beach what looked like whale activity 200-300 yards offshore.

We expect more reports over the next 2-3 weeks and appreciate any efforts to share them with us via Facebook Message. Please record location, date and time of sightings, and stay at least 30 yards away from migrating whales. Stay safe!

View the photo bigger and definitely follow the Lake Michigan Whale Migration Station on Facebook for more updates!

Home Before the Squall

Home Before the Squall, photo by Julie Mansour

Thinking there’s been a lot of rain lately? You’re not wrong! Michigan has experienced a lot of rain over the last few weeks, and mLive meteorologist Mark Torregrossa shares that there are three weather conditions all combining over the Great Lakes that keep the rain machine running:

Over the next 10 days there should be three weather systems moving through the Great Lakes region. Each of these storms should have one to two inches of rain in the heaviest swath of precipitation.

The cause of the wet weather starts with numerous storm systems being born over the northern Pacific Ocean. These storms are hitting the Pacific Northwest coast every three to five days. The storm systems then cross the hotter than average Rockies and drop south into the base of a “U”-shaped bend in the jetstream. This U-shaped area is where storms spin faster and intensify. It’s the area along the jetstream where large-scale weather systems are at their strongest.

The final part to this wet weather scenario is what we call a “wide-open Gulf of Mexico.” Southern winds from the Gulf of Mexico into the Midwest and Ohio Valley bring high amounts of water vapor northward. The strong storm systems use that water vapor to produce heavy rain.

…The total rainfall forecast over the next week, through July 4, 2017 shows NOAA forecasters expect a swath of five to six inch total rain. We will just have to watch where this heaviest rain sets up. Right now it is expected to fall south of the flooded areas in Michigan. It could easily shift north or south a few hundred miles.

Julie caught the Neptune beating the rain in Holland last weekend. View her photo background bigtacular and see more in her slideshow.

The future of Great Lakes is slipping through our hands…

Silver Carp in hand, photo by Dan O’Keefe, Michigan Sea Grant

The Herald-Palladium reports that an Asian carp has been found just 9 miles from Lake Michigan:

…the news is a reminder that the Trump administration needs to take the problem seriously, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton said Friday. The St. Joseph Republican on Friday called on the president to release a bottled-up blueprint for tackling the problem.
“The time to act is now. I am calling on the Trump administration to immediately release the Brandon Road Study so that we can have a full grasp of our options to stop this destructive force,” he stated in a news release. “Asian Carp have the potential to decimate the Great Lakes we all love and depend on.

“It is absolutely imperative we step up our efforts to further protect our lakes. I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle here in the House and the Senate to take action to stop Asian Carp from entering our waterways.”

Earlier this week, Upton signed on as a co-sponsor of the Stop Asian Carp Now Act. The bipartisan, bicameral legislation would compel the Trump administration to release the Brandon Road Study within seven days of the bill’s enactment. The Brandon Road study will provide important guidance on how best to prevent Asian Carp from entering the Great Lakes. The entire Michigan Congressional Delegation supports of this legislation.

The live Asian carp has been discovered in a Chicago waterway – well beyond an electric barrier network designed to prevent the invasive fish that have infested the Mississippi River system from reaching the Great Lakes, officials said Friday.

I would encourage you to read on for more, and you can also see the whole text of the Stop Asian Carp Act (HR 892). I would note that this bill was originally introduced in 2011, so maybe make a couple of calls to your representatives.

View the photo background big and see more in the Michigan Sea Grant’s Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) slideshow.

#TBT with the Oldest Ship on the Great Lakes

Lake Michigan … barge pushing, photo by Ken Scott Photography

Here’s a shot of a familiar vessel, the St. Marys Challenger. As this article on the conversion of the Challenger says, eventually, age catches up with you:

St. Marys Challenger lived up to its name by defying that assertion longer than its counterparts. But after 107 years, the laker was taken out of service in November 2013 to be converted to a barge. Built in 1906, Challenger was the oldest operating freighter on the Great Lakes.

The decision to convert the 551-foot cement carrier followed a series of upgrades spanning several decades, including extensive hull rebuilding, installation of a self-unloading cargo system and a myriad of other structural upgrades. In the end, the owner was left with a Skinner Marine Uniflow four-cylinder reciprocating steam engine burning heavy fuel oil, outdated DC electric and an aged mechanical propulsion system that made operating the boat an ever-increasing expense.

…Port City Marine, based in Muskegon, Mich., considered its alternatives, including retrofitting Challenger with a diesel engine. Not only would that have cost about $20 million — nearly double the barge conversion project — but it would have saddled the company with ongoing expenses. And while a crew of 25 was needed to operate Challenger, the articulated tug-barge (ATB) can operate with 11.

Read on for lots more!

View Ken’s photo bigger on Facebook, follow Ken Scott Photography on Facebook and visit kenscottphotography.com to view & purchase photos!

Today is not the Earth’s Longest Day

Untitled, photo by Jim Schoensee

The summer solstice arrives at 12:24 AM tomorrow when sun’s zenith is at its furthest point from the equator, making today the longest day of  2017. Vox’s article on the summer solstice has some interesting info about the solstice including a look at whether or not today is the longest day in Earth’s history:

Ever since the Earth has had liquid oceans and a moon, its rotation has been gradually slowing over time due to tidal friction. That means — over very, very long periods of time — the days have been getting steadily longer. About 4.5 billion years ago, it took the Earth just six hours to complete one rotation. About 350 million years ago, it took 23 hours. Today, of course, it takes about 24 hours. And the days will gradually get longer still.

Given that, you’d think 2017 would be the longest day in all of history. But while it’s certainly up there, it doesn’t quite take top honors.

That’s because tidal friction isn’t the only thing affecting Earth’s rotation — there are a few countervailing factors. The melting of glacial ice, which has been occurring since the end of the last ice age 12,000 years ago (and is now ramping up because of global warming), is actually speeding up Earth’s rotation very slightly, shortening the days by a few fractions of a millisecond. Likewise, geologic activity in the planet’s core, earthquakes, ocean currents, and seasonal wind changes can also speed up or slow down Earth’s rotation.

When you put all these factors together, scientists have estimated that the longest day in Earth’s history (so far) likely occurred back in 1912. That year’s summer solstice was the longest period of daylight the Northern Hemisphere has ever seen (and, conversely, the 1912 winter solstice was the longest night we’ve ever seen).

Eventually, the effects of tidal friction should overcome all those other factors, and Earth’s days will get longer and longer as its rotation keeps slowing (forcing timekeepers to add leap seconds to the calendar periodically). Which means that in the future, there will be plenty of summer solstices that set new records as the “longest day in Earth’s history.”

View Jim’s photo of the Charlevoix Lighthouse on the summer solstice in 2010 bigger and see more in his Charlevoix Lighthouse slideshow.