March 21, 2015
Lighthouse Friends’ page on the Muskegon South Pier Light begins:
The name ‘Muskegon’ comes from the Ottawa Indian term ‘Masquigon,’ meaning “marshy river or swamp,” and refers to the Muskegon River that expands into Muskegon Lake before emptying into Lake Michigan. Settlement on the shores of Lake Muskegon began in 1837 with the establishment of Muskegon Township. Nicknamed the ‘Lumber Queen of the World,’ Muskegon was home to more millionaires than any other town in America during the late 1800s, when its lumber helped rebuild Chicago after the great fire of 1871.
In August 1838, Lieutenant James T. Homans visited the river and included the following in a report to the Secretary of the Treasury:
Muskegon river, on lake Michigan, came next under my observation, it is a large stream, opening, within half a mile of its outlet, into a considerable lake, eight miles long by four wide. The channel in, is wide and easy of access, and not less than twelve feet of water in it; making this harbor, in my estimation, the best on lake Michigan, all things considered. Its value as a safe haven, and the rich lumber trade in which it will soon be engaged, (three extensive steam saw-mills having been erected there,) entitle it to a light-house near the entrance. I selected a point, on the south side of the river’s mouth, as the best location, in the event of an appropriation being made for a light there.
On March 3, 1849, Congress set aside $3,500 for a lighthouse at the site selected by Homans, and in 1851 a one-and-a-half-story, rubblestone dwelling, surmounted by a wooden tower, was built. The dwelling measured thirty-six by eighteen feet, and the top of the tower stood twenty-six feet above the ground. Six lamps with fourteen-inch reflectors were originally used in the lantern room, but a sixth-order Fresnel lens replaced these in 1856. Alexander Wilson was hired as the light’s first keeper at an annual salary of $450.
Read on for lots more including photos.
March 20, 2015
Spring officially arrives today at 6:45 PM, and we are starting to see signs that winter is running out of steam. One of them is the return of Red-winged blackbirds Agelaius phoeniceus about which University of Michigan BioKids says (in part):
These birds are some of the first springtime birds to return from their wintering sites. Once males arrive, they devote their time to defending their territory. The most successful defenders are not necessarily the most aggressive birds. Males that spend more time in, as well as foraging on, their territory are more likely to retain ownership of that territory.
Males with darker colored shoulders do not tend to keep their territories. Typically in the spring, male red-winged blackbirds display in a “song spread.” They fluff their plumage, raise their shoulders, and spread their tail as they sing. As the display becomes more intense, the wings are more arched with the shoulders showing more prominently. Males use this same body display as a threat to other male birds that enter into the male’s territory.
Females will also engage in a “song spread” display directed at each other early in the breeding season. One possibility is that a female will defend a sub-territory within the male’s territory. The female will engage in a “wing flip” display when a disturbance prevents her from returning to her nest full of young.
Red-winged blackbirds are active during the day and migrate between their summer breeding grounds and winter feeding areas. During the winter, red-winged blackbirds aggregate in huge flocks and tend to stay in or near areas where grains and seeds are available to eat.
Read on for more including their ability to help control insect pests.
Many more Michigan birds on Michigan in Pictures.
March 19, 2015
March 18, 2015
NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center is THE place to go for forecasting of likely northern lights activity. Yesterday they held a press conference regarding the G4 storm (on a scale of 1-5) that was caused by two magnetic eruptions on March 15 that combined to form a single wave producing the biggest storm so far of Cycle 24.
Their page on Geomagnetic Storms explains:
A geomagnetic storm is a major disturbance of Earth’s magnetosphere that occurs when there is a very efficient exchange of energy from the solar wind into the space environment surrounding Earth. These storms result from variations in the solar wind that produces major changes in the currents, plasmas, and fields in Earth’s magnetosphere. The solar wind conditions that are effective for creating geomagnetic storms are sustained (for several to many hours) periods of high-speed solar wind, and most importantly, a southward directed solar wind magnetic field (opposite the direction of Earth’s field) at the dayside of the magnetosphere. This condition is effective for transferring energy from the solar wind into Earth’s magnetosphere.
The largest storms that result from these conditions are associated with solar coronal mass ejections (CMEs) where a billion tons or so of plasma from the sun, with its embedded magnetic field, arrives at Earth. CMEs typically take several days to arrive at Earth, but have been observed, for some of the most intense storms, to arrive in as short as 18 hours. Another solar wind disturbance that creates conditions favorable to geomagnetic storms is a high-speed solar wind stream (HSS). HSSs plow into the slower solar wind in front and create co-rotating interaction regions, or CIRs. These regions are often related to geomagnetic storms that while less intense than CME storms, often can deposit more energy in Earth’s magnetosphere over a longer interval.
Storms also result in intense currents in the magnetosphere, changes in the radiation belts, and changes in the ionosphere, including heating the ionosphere and upper atmosphere region called the thermosphere. In space, a ring of westward current around Earth produces magnetic disturbances on the ground. A measure of this current, the disturbance storm time (Dst) index, has been used historically to characterize the size of a geomagnetic storm. In addition, there are currents produced in the magnetosphere that follow the magnetic field, called field-aligned currents, and these connect to intense currents in the auroral ionosphere. These auroral currents, called the auroral electrojets, also produce large magnetic disturbances. Together, all of these currents, and the magnetic deviations they produce on the ground, are used to generate a planetary geomagnetic disturbance index called Kp. This index is the basis for one of the three NOAA Space Weather Scales, the Geomagnetic Storm, or G-Scale, that is used to describe space weather that can disrupt systems on Earth.
During storms, the currents in the ionosphere, as well as the energetic particles that precipitate into the ionosphere add energy in the form of heat that can increase the density and distribution of density in the upper atmosphere, causing extra drag on satellites in low-earth orbit. The local heating also creates strong horizontal variations in the in the ionospheric density that can modify the path of radio signals and create errors in the positioning information provided by GPS. While the storms create beautiful aurora, they also can disrupt navigation systems such as the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and create harmful geomagnetic induced currents (GICs) in the power grid and pipelines.
More northern lights photos & info on Michigan in Pictures.
March 17, 2015
Shawn of Lake Superior Photo writes:
Some great auroras this morning, but it was very difficult to photograph, brutal wind- it’s still out and still dark, go look north
Click to view the photo background bigtacular after you go out and check!!
Call it the luck of the Irish for early risers! Stay safe and happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone.
March 16, 2015
I keep thinking to myself just one more winter photo … and then there’s one more.
Charles shot this at Gills Pier on the Leelanau Lake Peninsula last week. View it background bigtacular (for real – the detail on the ice in the foreground is staggering) and see lots more Lake Michigan ice and beauty in his awesome slideshow.
March 14, 2015
This weekend features many St. Patrick’s Day celebrations around the state. I hope that if you’re taking part you have a lot of fun, stay safe and remember to be kind to any leprechauns you happen to meet!