Ice is Nice: Tracking Ice Cover on the Great Lakes

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Shoreline Ice, photo by Mark Swanson

Ice on Michigan’s Great Lakes has become something of a phenomenon in the last few years, attracting photographers and thousands more to see the ephemeral beauty created by wind, water, and freezing temperatures. But ice has other important purposes, as NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory page on Great Lakes Ice Cover explains:

Ice formation on the Great Lakes is a clear signal of winter. Looking back in time, the lakes were formed over several thousands of years as mile-thick layers of glacial ice advanced and retreated, scouring and sculpting the basin. The shape and drainage patterns of the basin were in a constant state of flux resulting from the ebb and flow of glacial meltwater coupled with the rebound of the underlying land as the massive ice sheets retreated.

Heavy ice cover can reduce the amount of evaporation from the Great Lakes in the winter, thus contributing to higher water levels.

In bays and other nearshore areas, ice forms a stable platform for winter recreational activity such as ice fishing. This stable ice also protects wetlands and the shoreline from erosion.

  • 94.7% ice coverage in 1979 is the maximum on record (data began in 1973)
  • 9.5% ice coverage in 2002 is the lowest on record
  • 11.5% ice coverage in 1998, a strong El Niño year
  • The extreme ice cover in 2014 (92.5%) and 2015 (88.8%) were the first consecutive high ice cover years since the late 1970s.

NOAA pegs the current ice cover at 9.9% and you can also watch an animation of the last 60 days of ice formation. You can check out satellite images of the Great Lakes for current ice cover and also this cool animation of Great Lakes ice cover from 1973 – 2016.

Mark took this photo a little over a week ago at Lincoln Township Park near Stevensville. With the warmer weather, there’s probably less. View his photo bigger and see more in his Michigan Winter slideshow.

Walking with Martin Luther King

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Martin Luther King Park, photo by Bill Dolak

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
-Martin Luther King

The sculpture is “Martin Luther King” by Lisa Reinertson and her site includes an article about the sculpture:

A bronze portrait figure of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. strides forward confidently in a small park in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The statue, created by sculptor Lisa Reinertson, is only slightly larger than real life, but its presence is monumental.

Seen from a distance, the clerical robe worn by Reverend King strengthens the tall, pyramidal composition, while the robe’s flowing contours both animate the design and echo the character of this restless minister who was constantly on the march for freedom and justice.

Upon approaching the sculpture, which the viewer is drawn to do by its placement on a simple low pedestal, one sees that the robe is embellished with scenes from the civil rights struggle rendered in low relief. A black slave labors in a field near the hem of the robe, while a dark fold of the garment reveals the lynching of a man by the Ku Klux Klan. A Montgomery city bus and a portrait of Rosa Parks adorn the lower left side. The Selma to Montgomery march and King’s I Have a Dream speech are depicted elsewhere. One also finds images of voter registration, school desegregation, the Greensboro, North Carolina lunch counter sit in, and the use of firehoses to break up the peaceful 1963 Birmingham demonstrations. Down King’s broad back the vertical folds of the cloth evolve into the bars of the Birmingham Jail with a pensive King seated behind them. Above him is the image of Mahatma Gandhi, who inspired King’s use of non-violent civil disobedience.

View Bill’s photo from MLK Park in Kalamazoo background big and see more in his MASSIVE Kalamazoo slideshow.

More about Martin Luther King on Michigan in Pictures.

Warren Dunes in black & white

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Warren Dunes, photo by Mark Swanson

Warren Dunes State Park has three miles of shoreline and six miles of hiking trails on nearly 2000 acres. It is open year-round, and the centerpiece is the dune formation that rises 260 feet above the lake and offers spectacular views. It’s also our busiest state park!

View Mark’s photo bigger and see more in his Michigan – Black & White slideshow.

More about Edward K Warren & Warren Dunes on Michigan in Pictures.

Lions in the Sky: The 2016 Leonid Meteor Shower

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Aurora Fireball, photo by Ross Ellet

Space.com’s page on How to Watch the Leonids says in part:

The Leonid meteor shower happens every year in November, when Earth’s orbit crosses the orbit of Comet Tempel-Tuttle. The comet makes its way around the sun every 33.3 years, leaving a trail of dust rubble in its wake. When Earth’s orbit crosses this trail of debris, pieces of the comet fall toward the planet’s surface. Drag, or air resistance, in Earth’s atmosphere cause the comet’s crumbs to heat up and ignite into burning balls of fire called meteors.

…The Leonid meteor shower peaks on the night of Thursday, Nov. 17, and early the following morning. Skywatchers might be able to see some meteors as early as Sunday, Nov. 13. However, with a full supermoon slated to rise Monday, Nov. 14, moonlight will likely outshine most meteors, rendering them difficult to see.

But don’t feel bummed if you don’t spot any of the early meteors. The Leonids will continue to graze the night sky until Nov. 21. At this point, the waning moon will be at its third quarter, meaning only half of the moon’s face will illuminate the sky. With less of the moon’s natural light obstructing the view, skywatchers who were unable to see the meteor shower at first will still have a chance to catch the last Leonid meteors.

Ross took this photo in late September of 2014 and writes:

The sky was cloudy most of the night, but at 3:30am there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We made our way to the lakeshore and sure enough the northern lights were dim on the northern horizon. At one point you could hear the howl of a distant wolf pack while the northern lights were out. Then moments later a slow move fireball flashed across the sky. It lasted a couple seconds and the brightness pulsed as it moved through the atmosphere. After that the aurora faded, but several more meteors (some very bright) streaked above us.

View it background bigtacular and see more in his Porcupine Mtns slideshow, and definitely check out his website, Ross Ellet’s Weather & Photography for more!!

PS: Some of the best northern lights on the year happen in November so be sure to keep an eye on the skies!

Lake Charlevoix Fall Colors

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Lake Charlevoix Fall Colors, photo by frank wulfers

Frank took this shot on Wednesday from the Avalanche Mountain Scenic Overlook in Boyne City. As you can see, this will be the weekend for fall color across much of Michigan, so check out some great fall scenes on Michigan in Pictures and make your plans for a getaway!

View Frank’s photo bigger and see more in his Michigan – Northwest slideshow.

Moonglow at Tahquamenon Falls

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Moonglow, photo by Rudy Malmquist

Gorgeous photo from after dark at Tahquamenon Falls State Park.

View Rudy’s photo background bigtacular and see more in his slideshow.

Lots more about Tahquamenon Falls on Michigan in Pictures.

Stoll Trail Incident and How Isle Royale Became a Park

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Silhouette of a Moose, photo by Nina

Nina writes that she came upon this moose looking like a fake silhouette against a beautiful backdrop while hiking Albert Stoll Memorial Trail just before sunset at Isle Royale. Read Houghton, Flight to Isle Royale, and the Stoll Trail Incident for lots more including photos on Nina’s blog Black Coffee at Sunrise.

This excellent history of Isle Royale National Park from ParkVision explains how this remote Lake Superior Island became a park and Mr. Stoll’s role:

As early as the 1860’s some visited the island for touring or pleasure. But by the turn of the century a real tourism industry was beginning to exist on the island, fueled in part by the growth of midwestern cities. The first hotel on the island, the Johns Hotel, was built in 1892, and other early resorts were built at Tobin Harbor, Rock Harbor, and Washington Island. By the 1920’s there were a number of sizeable resorts located on Isle Royale and some of the smaller islands surrounding it. The moist, cool air on the island provided a popular escape from the midwestern summer heat and for hay fever sufferers.

The 1920’s also brought an effort to gain preservation of and national park status for the island. This effort was spearheaded by Albert Stoll Jr. of the Detroit News, and it was endorsed by Stephen Mather who visited the island in 1924. The threat of extensive logging of the island’s forests in 1922 enhanced concern about the importance of preservation of the island’s magnificent natural resources. Isle Royale gained a measure of fame as a result of a daring winter visit by plane by Ben East and his companions.

In 1930 the Michigan legislature created the Isle Royale National Park Commission. Establishment of the island and surrounding areas as a national park was authorized when Herbert Hoover signed legislation on March 31, 1931. However, initially no money was authorized for its establishment. The Depression and World War II intervened, and it was not until August of 1946 after all park lands had been acquired that the park was finally dedicated in a ceremony on Mott Island.

Read on for lots more!

View Nina’s photo background big and see more at Black Coffee at Sunrise where she will have further posts from her latest journey!