Friday, February 28, 2014

Great Lakes Ice Cover and Other Recent NASA photos

Last night was the coldest night in Grand Marais in many years.  When I went to bed my outside thermometer read -20 F.  This morning it warmed up to -17.  I kept the fire in my wood burner going all night plus I put on my Eden Pure Heater.  This is not the day to skimp on heating cost.

Due to the cold winter, according to an analysis by NOAA's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, ice covered 88.4 percent of the Great Lakes on February 13.  Not since early 1994 has ice been so widespread on the Great Lakes. This is an abrupt turn around from the past four winters, during which the peak ice coverage remained around 40 percent or less.  A NASA satelite took the picture shown below of the Great Lakes on February 19th showing only around 80 percent ice coverage, which was less than the previous week.  The south wind consolidated and crunched the ice, so along the south shore of Lake Superior there was some open water.  On Lake Michigan, the ice was also consolidated and pushed to the north end.  Lakes Huron and Erie are completely frozen in the picture.  The incredibly cold weather this week, which is supposed to extend into next week, will most likely freeze over the little bit of open water that is left.

Then, while I was looking for more NASA photos to include in this post, I found a NASA web page that explains how NASA figured out what makes the Northern Lights shimmer and move.  I have always wondered what causes the Northern Lights to suddenly brighten and dance in intriguing bursts of color. To find out, NASA launched a fleet of five satellites called THEMIS, the Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms.  These satellites worked in concert with ground-based observers to measure the magnetic field at the same time that Northern Lights were active.  What they figured out is that as the Earth's magnetic field captures and stores energy from the solar wind, the Earth's magnetic field lines stretch far out into space. As the amount of energy builds up, there is a release of the energy stored within these stretched magnetic field lines, flinging charged particles back toward the Earth's atmosphere,  This Northern Lights impacting phenomenon is demonstrated in the NASA video shown below.

These observations confirm for the first time that magnetic reconnection triggers the onset of electrical substorms. Just after the energy snaps back toward Earth, there is a rapid auroral brightening and rapid expansion of the aurora toward the poles. This culminates in a redistribution of the electrical currents flowing in space around Earth.  Northern Lights are shown in the NASA photo below.

Next I checked in with the Hubbel telescope.  I decided to include an awesome photo of a spiral galaxy,  M83, which is unveiled in all of its glory in the Hubble Space Telescope mosaic image below. The vibrant magentas and blues reveal the galaxy is ablaze with star formation. The galaxy, also known as the Southern Pinwheel, lies 15 million light-years away in the constellation Hydra.

Next I looked in on the Mars Curiosity Rover.  On February 27th, NASA released the photo below showing sedimentary layers of rock in the foreground, and Mount Sharp in the background.

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Hungry Deer

During the U.P. winters, deer and the other critters have a hard time finding food.  That is why they love my apple trees.  Yesterday a deer walked up my driveway and dug for apples in the deep snow.  I decided to see what my new camera lens will do.  Here is a series of pictures starting with no zoom up to the maximum X200 zoom.  The deer is in the center of the first picture.

More photos....

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Cold and Snow Plus 2014 Global Weather Trends

The polar vortex has descended down into the U.S. again.  This morning is one of the coldest yet this winter season.  It is 8 below zero.

I decided to do an Internet search regarding 2014 weather trends.  I found a great article written by John Vidal at The Guardian that sums things up:

There have been heatwaves in Slovenia and Australia, snow in Vietnam and the return of the polar vortex to North America. Britain has had its wettest winter in 250 years but temperatures in parts of Russia and the Arctic have been 10C above normal. Meanwhile, the southern hemisphere has had the warmest start to a year ever recorded, with millions of people sweltering in Brazilian and southern African cities.  

 The link for the full article is:

There are several summary maps at .
The map that summarizes the cold trend in North America for the 2013-2014 winter season is below.

Here are a few more photos I took from my sun porch and windows.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Seney Refuge Snowshoe

Last Friday I was supposed to head out of town with friends, Jamey and Lois, to celebrate Lois's birthday.  The freezing rain, high winds, and possible blizzard conditions caused us to postpone until yesterday.  Temperatures were in the single digits and the roads were icy, but we went anyway.  Our first stop was the Seney Wildlife Refuge for a snowshoe.  The Seney National Wildlife Refuge is a managed wetland in Schoolcraft County in the U.S. state of Michigan. It has an area of 95,212 acres. It is bordered by M-28 and M-77.  Just for comparison, the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is only 73,236 acres.

We parked off Robinson Road, accessed from the south side of Germfask.  Since we wanted to go to Manistique to go shopping, and then to Curtis for Lois's birthday dinner at Chamberlins -- we limited this snowshoe to just short of two hours.  Our route is shown below in red.  Come along on the snowshoe with us.....

Putting on snowshoes...

Notice the wind whipping up the snow....

Jamey spotted an eagle, but I didn't get a good photo.  So here is a picture showing that we had some blue sky to begin the trek -- but then it snowed the last half.

For what ever reason, there were not as many snow sculptures at the refuge compared to what we have in Grand Marais.  But there were some...

It is hard to make out the detail in the picture below, but there is a 30 foot branch hanging from a tree.  In the pictures that follow, you can see that it is not touching the ground, but is caught up in the other tree.

The gathering of broken and fallen branches was artistic.

The tree below had lightning strike damage.

There is usually more open water flow downstream from the water control gate,  but not this year.  It was still nice to see some open water.  There were animal tracks in the area -- I am sure the critters appreciate the open water, too.

Jamey checking out the flow through the gate...

Heading back....

We started talking about how we would survive if we had to spend the night in the woods.  Jamey went in search of insects -- just in case you needed to find food -- he found a hibernating spider...

And another....


A couple more snow cling on sculptures.  On the left is a fox facing left; next to the fox is a whale facing to the right.