Firing up the Polar Vortex Ice Cave Hype Machine

Ice Cave Evening, photo by Mark Miller

via leelanau.com who write:

It’s a frosty 3 degrees in Leland with winds whipping powdery snow around and more single digits & high winds driving wind chills far below zero coming over the next couple of days. That’s not optimal for driving, and schools across the county are cancelled. It could, however, bring to life ice formations & caves on Leelanau’s western shore like we’ve seen several times in recent years.

They’ve got past ice cave articles and will be posting updates right here! The Freep reports that Michigan is bracing for potentially record-breaking cold this week:

A polar vortex is forecast to batter the Great Lakes and Midwest regions Tuesday through Thursday, with the lowest temperatures set to occur Wednesday. Some areas of Lower Michigan could face wind chills as low as 45 degrees below zero, according to the National Weather Service.

That would mark the most bitter cold in years for the region.

…The polar vortex is the large area of cold air and low pressure near each of the Earth’s poles. The air flows counter-clockwise near each of the poles, hence “vortex.”

“Many times during winter in the northern hemisphere, the polar vortex will expand, sending cold air southward with the jet stream,” the NWS explains.

Mark took this back in Mark of 2014. View the photo bigger and see more awesome shots in his Northern Michigan winters photo album.

The Moon and the Vortex

Moon and the Ice Blob

The Moon and the Ice Blob, photo by Cherie

One of the cool things about having a Michigan photo group with nearly 200,000 photos to draw from is that I can find a photo for pretty much any post. Thanks all of you who share in the Absolute Michigan photo group!

Bruce McClure and Deborah Byrd have a nice feature on one of my favorite blogs EarthSky titled What is a Supermoon? It begins:

We in astronomy used to call them perigean new moons or perigean full moons, that is, new or full moons closely coinciding with perigee – the moon’s closest point to Earth in its orbit. But, in accordance with the rapidly evolving skylore of the modern world, we now enjoy calling them supermoons. The name supermoon was coined by an astrologer, Richard Nolle, over 30 years ago. It was popularized and came to be the accepted term for most people only in the past few years.

Are supermoons hype? In our opinion … gosh, no, just modern folklore. And they can cause real physical effects, such as larger-than-usual tides. The year 2014 has a total of five supermoons. They are the two new moons of January, and the full moons of July, August and September. Next supermoon: July 12.

Read on for more about tonight’s supermoon and supermoons in general.

Of course, the supermoon isn’t the only natural phenomenon enjoying hype this weekend, because our old friend the Polar Vortex is returning for an encore. Or not, according to Dr Jeff Masters of Weather Underground in the Freep:

It is not, however, the second coming of a polar vortex, something the National Weather Service says it regrets tweeting earlier this week.

Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters says the weather pattern is similar to those dreaded words, but the key difference is that the chilly air mass isn’t coming directly from the arctic.

Masters says that Typhoon Neoguri in Japan altered the path of the jet stream and allowed polar air to spill out of Canada. That means next week’s temperatures will be as much as 15 degrees cooler than normal in the Midwest and could reach 90 in the normally temperate Pacific Northwest.

More at the Freep and also check out mLive meteorologist Mark Torregrossa’s take on the battle between El Nino and the Polar Vortex. He talks about El Nino’s chances to push the jet stream northward. If it’s not strong enough, winter 2015 could be ruled by the polar vortex again. Go El Nino, Go El Nino!

Cherie took this photo in February of 2009 on Belle Isle. See it bigger on Flickr and see more in her Belle Isle Slideshow.

More supermoons and more polar vortex on Michigan in Pictures!

Shoreline Wonders

Winter ... shoreline wonders!

Winter … shoreline wonders!, photo by Ken Scott

As you may have realized from his last photo, Ken enjoys winter quite a lot – a useful trait for a photographer! He says that he crawled in here to get out of the arctic blast yesterday when he was exploring the ice by the Grand Traverse Lighthouse at the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula. If you want to get a sense of what it’s like right now, he also shot a fantastic video!

View his photo bigger, see more in his Winter slideshow and if you’d like to chat with Ken about the photo, check it out on his Facebook page.

PS: I thought this photo was a nice counterpoint to Shawn Malone’s last pic.

Iced Light in the Polar Vortex Night

Iced Light in Polar Vortex Night @ -20 °C (-4 °F)

Iced Light in Polar Vortex Night @ -20 °C (-4 °F), photo by C.T.Yeh

Here in Traverse City,  schools are closed for (I think) the 5th time since January 1st. With 4 degree temps and the wind howling at 20-30 mph, our wind chill is near 20 below. The temps across Michigan show much the same with few places in the Lower Peninsula above single digits and most of the Upper Peninsula below zero. Marquette takes the (frozen) cake with -10 before any windchill is calculated.

What big teeth you have, Winter 2014.

Check Jimmy’s photo out background bigtacular and see more in his Nature slideshow.

There’s more winter wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures, but nobody’s going to blame you if you try on something a little more summery!

Buried by the Polar Vortex in Michigan

Squirrels and other pictures at the University of Michigan on an awful cold wintry day (January 6, 2014)

Squirrels and other pictures at the University of Michigan on an awful cold wintry day (January 6, 2014), photo by cseeman

If yesterday’s Michigan temps seemed chilly, today’s are worse! Ironwood is still the coldest, but they are up a few degrees at -20 (before the -33 windchill of course). Most of the rest of the state is joining them below zero this morning. Detroit and Lansing are at -11, Marquette is at -15 and Grand Rapids is at a balmy 1.6 degrees!

Dr. Jeff Masters blog on the Extreme Cold Blast at Weather Underground, the site he founded and runs in Michigan says:

The most extreme cold air outbreak since 1994 is in store for much of the U.S. on Monday and Tuesday, as Arctic air behind a major winter storm invades the Midwest. The powerful 989 mb storm blasted the Upper Midwest on Sunday, bringing snows in excess of a foot over portions of Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Missouri, and Ohio. The 11.4″ that fell on Sunday in Indianapolis, Indiana made it that city’s second snowiest day on record (the all-time record: 12.1″ on March 19, 1906); Flint, Michigan also recorded its second snowiest day on record: 14.5″ (the all time record: 15.0″ on November 28, 1937.) … The high temperature in Detroit on Tuesday is expected to remain below zero; the city’s list of days with a high temperature below zero is a short one, with only three such days in recorded history. The frigid air is being propelled by strong Arctic winds of 15 – 25 mph, which will generate dangerously low wind chill readings in the -30° to -60°F range from Michigan to Minnesota on Monday and Tuesday.

In the winter, the 24-hour darkness over the snow and ice-covered polar regions allows a huge dome of cold air to form. This cold air increases the difference in temperature between the pole and the Equator, and leads to an intensification of the strong upper-level winds of the jet stream. The strong jet stream winds act to isolate the polar regions from intrusions of warmer air, creating a “polar vortex” of frigid counter-clockwise swirling air over the Arctic. The chaotic flow of the air in the polar vortex sometimes allows a large dip (a sharp trough of low pressure) to form in the jet stream over North America, allowing the Arctic air that had been steadily cooling in the northern reaches of Canada in areas with 24-hour darkness to spill southwards deep into the United States. In theory, the 1.5°F increase in global surface temperatures that Earth has experienced since 1880 due to global warming should reduce the frequency of 1-in-20 year extreme cold weather events like the current one. However, it is possible that climate change could alter jet stream circulation patterns in a way that could increase the incidence of unusual jet stream “kinks” that allow cold air to spill southwards over the Eastern U.S., a topic I have blogged about extensively, and plan to say more about later this week.

Read on for more and to see a shot of Jeff shoveling 14″ off his metro Detroit roof!

Corey took this shot on the campus of the University of Michigan. View it background big and see more in his massive Squirrels of the Univ. of Michigan slideshow.

PS: Curiously enough, there’s a Campus Squirrels photo group on Flickr.