News

Great Lakes Water Levels (and more)

August 14th, 2014 at 8:36 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

Lake Michigan Michelle Olin  The water level of Lake Michigan/Huron is unchanged in the last 2 weeks and unchanged in the last 4 weeks.  However, the level is 16″ higher than it was one year ago.  That’s the biggest one-year change on Lake Michigan/Huron that I have ever seen.  Since each inch of water represents 390 billion gallons…that means an increase of 6.24 TRILLION gallons of water in just one year.   The lake remains 3″ below the long-term average and 28″ above the lowest August water level in 1964.  Lake Superior is unchanged in the last month and 9″ above the level of one year ago.  Superior is 6″ above the century average.  The biggest of the Great Lakes is 26″ above the lowest water level in August, set in 2007 and only 6″ below the highest August water level set in 1952.  Lake Erie is down one inch in the last month, up 4″ in the last year and 6″ above the long-term average.  Lake Ontario is down 5″ in the last month, down 1″ in the last year, but still 4″ above the century average.  Lake St. Clair is up 2″ in the last month, up 11″ in the last year and it’s now 7″ above the long-term average.  Lake Superior’s outflow down the St. Mary’s River into Lake Huron is expected to be “well above average” through August and into September.  The outflow from Lake Erie down the Niagara River and over Niagara Falls is expected to be above average for the rest of the summer.  (Picture of Lake Michigan from the awesome Michelle Olin)

OK – first, one of my favorite quotations from H.L Mencken:  “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”    Now – on to my featured article this week, this time from the Montreal Gazette.  I encourage you to read the article and see how that matches the reality in my first paragraph.    Now, look at the date, August 13, 2014 – so this article came out Wednesday of this week.  The article starts:  “Climate change experts predict that water volumes and levels in the St. Lawrence River Basin will continue to dwindle over time.”  Now, is the water level of the Great Lakes “dwindling”? – obviously no.     The writer continues:  “It is already nearly impossible to manage water levels in the basin simply by discharging water stored at the Sault-Ste-Marie, Welland-Niagara, Cornwall and Beauharnois dam complexes.   We’ve never been able to completely manage water levels.  In fact, we sometimes get in trouble when we do try and overmanage nature (dredging in the St. Clair River, building a nuclear power plant where they get severe earthquakes and tsunamis and letting people live 10 feet below sea level on river silt where they get hit by strong hurricanes and storm surges).    The article continues:  “The levels of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan are already some two feet or 60 centimetres lower than normal.”  NO THEY’RE NOT!!  The lakes are 3″ below “normal” NOT TWO FEET! The other 3 Great Lakes are well above normal.   It goes on to say:  “In a report this past June titled Lower Water Blues, the Mowat Centre of the University of Toronto conservatively assessed medium-term economic impacts at about $20 billion.   I wrote about the Mowat study 2 weeks ago.  The $20 billion figure is of course highly suspect, since the study was based on flawed input.  (But it could scare you into allowing them to take a lot more of your money).  The “dam solution” to all, the author says, will cost only 6 BILLION Dollars.  (Hot dang, we “save” 14 billion dollars!!).

The updated latest weekly Great Lakes water levels are available on the web (no password, no pay wall, no “use Mike’s trick to hide the increase”) from the Army Corps of Engineers every Thursday evening.


Robin Williams dead

August 11th, 2014 at 7:07 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

robin williamsBreaking – The actor Robin Williams is dead of an apparent suicide.  Here’s the sheriff’s press release, which reads in part:

Marin County Sheriff’s Office Coroner Division FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Assistant Chief Deputy Coroner August 11, 2014.  Investigation into Death of Actor Robin Williams.

On August 11, 2014, at approximately 11:55 am, Marin County Communications received a 9-1-1 telephone call reporting a male adult had been located unconscious and not breathing inside his residence in unincorporated Tiburon, CA. The Sheriff’s Office, as well as the Tiburon Fire Department and Southern Marin Fire Protection District were dispatched to the incident with emergency personnel arriving on scene at12:00 pm. The male subject, pronounced deceased at12:02 pm has been identified as Robin McLaurin Williams, a 63 year old resident of unincorporated Tiburon, CA.An investigation into the cause, manner, and circumstances of the death is currently underway by the Investigations and Coroner Divisions of the Sheriff’s Office.Preliminary information developed during the investigation indicates Mr. Williams was last seen alive at his residence, where he resides with his wife, at approximately 10:00 pm on August 10, 2014. Mr. Williams was located this morning shortly before the 9-1-1 call was placed to Marin County Communications. At this time, the Sheriff’s Office Coroner Division suspects the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia, but a comprehensive investigation must be completed before a final determination is made.  A forensic examination is currently scheduled for August 12, 2014 with subsequent toxicology testing to be conducted.

Picture from NBC – San Francisco.   Here’s more pics. of Robin Williams and his career.


Great Lakes Water Levels and News

July 31st, 2014 at 8:13 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

Lake Michigan Jack Martin Ganges July 31 2014    Picture of Lake Michigan near Ganges this (Thurs.) evening from Jack Martin.  The water level of Lake Michigan/Huron (one lake for lake-level purposes) is now only 3″ from the long-term average.  The lake is up 2″ in the last month and up a spectacular 15″ in the last year (that’s 5.85 TRILLION gallons of water added to the lake in just 12 months!).  The lake is now 28″ above the lowest August level set in 1964.  Lake Superior is also up 2″ in the last month and is now 6″ ABOVE the long-term average.  Superior is up 9″ year-to-year.   Lake Superior is now 26″ higher than it was in August 2007!  It’s also only 7″ below the highest level ever measured in the month of August (in 1952).  Lake Erie is up 2″ year-to-year and is now 5″ above  the long-term average.  Lake Ontario is also up 2″ in the past year and the lake is now 6″ higher than the long-term average.  Lake St. Clair is up 9″ year-to-year and 5″ above the century average.  The flow of water out of Lake Superior down the St. Mary’s River will remain above average into early September.

OK – you’ve read the latest lake levels – out every Thursday by the Army Corps of Engineers on the web, easy to find…so WHY do we continue to get stories like this?  Look at the date – the article was published on June 26, 2014 – about a month ago.  The article says:  “Low water levels in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River could result in severe economic fallout for the region, totalling more than $19.3 billion by 2050, according to a new report.  The basin has experienced the longest extended period of low water levels since the U.S. and Canada began tracking it in 1918.”   Maybe it’s time that we take the money we give to Mowat Centre and Council of the Great Lakes Region for studies like this and instead put it toward filling potholes!    The South Bend Tribune gets the story right.

Also:  Cruise ships in ClevelandBoy meets Coast Guard crew that saved his life on Lake Michigan.   Black sludge on Lake OntarioDivers discover wreck of World War II airplane.  “Bug Derecho!“  Freshwater drum increasing in Lake MichiganInvasive species in the Great Lakes.   Who wants 4.5 million dollars?


Lake Michigan Upwelling

July 31st, 2014 at 12:48 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

Fog muskegon glerl  Upwelling - Lake Michigan water temperature Ludington Buoy 2014 JulyUpwelling - Lake Michigan water temperature off Port Sheldon July 2014 Picture on the left from the Muskegon GLERL camera Wednesday afternoon (from NOAA Coastwatch).  The high temperature on the beach at Muskegon was 60.1° at 7 pm.  The fog was caused by condensation as higher dewpoint air came across the very cold water.  The water temperature at Holland State Park Weds. morning was 41°.  I had to ask twice “are you sure, 41°?  The buoy west of Muskegon showed a water temp. of 43° (as I write this near midnight, the water temp. at the buoy was back to 47°) and the last I checked, the water intake temperature at S. Haven was 45°.  The graph in the middle is the water temperature at the buoy west of Ludington.  Wow!  The water temperature dropped from 63.6° to at least 39° in less than 24 hours.  The graph on the right is from the buoy west of Port Sheldon, showing a drop from the low 60s to the low 40s.  This cold water came from well below the surface through a process called upwelling.  We had a strong north wind behind a cold front and that pushed the surface water toward the middle of the lake, allowing much colder water from 100 feet below to rise to the surface.   Here’s a diagram to show what happened.  Here’s another example of upwelling from 2012.  This is a more thorough discussion and has a list of some historical upwelling.   Needless to say, this can be quite dangerous for anyone in water that cold.  This is especially a concern for someone that may take a boat out and decide to just jump off the boat into the water.   The mid-Lake Superior buoy showed a water temperature of 39.2° when I checked on Wednesday and the east Lake Superior buoy had a water temp. of 38.3°.   Here’s a look at the water temperature of Lake Michigan this year compared to recent yearsLake Superior not only is considerably colder than even 2009, but it appears to be about 20°F colder than the end of July in 2012.  Lake Huron is now also colder than 2009.  Here’s a five-year comparison for Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.


Smoky Sky

July 28th, 2014 at 9:10 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

sunset smoke bill steffen july 28 2014    sunset smoke climate.gov With a fresh, clean airmass coming down from Canada, you’d expect a bright blue sky. Instead, we have a hazy sky that looks more like we’d be in a stagnant tropical air mass with little wind. There is a layer of smoke that produced our orange sunset this evening. I took the picture on the left with my phone. The pic. on the right is from NOAA. Click on the images to enlarge. Here’s more:

Monday, July 28, 2014  DESCRIPTIVE TEXT NARRATIVE FOR SMOKE/DUST OBSERVED IN SATELLITE IMAGERY
July 28, 2014
SMOKE:   Canada/Northern U.S:
“Wildfires continue to rage over the Northwest Territories in Canada, mainly around Great Slave Lake, and produce a large amount of smoke. The smoke is moving to the north and northeast of the fires into the high Canadian Arctic, where it is is beyond the range of GOES satellite detection. The smoke area then curls clockwise around a high pressure system and moves southward into the western Great Lakes. The smoke covers most of eastern Northwest Territories, Nunavut, northern Alberta, northern Saskatchewan, much of Manitoba and Ontario and the western half of Hudson Bay. The smoke also covers northern Minnesota, and much of Wisconsin and Michigan. Most of this area was moderate to dense, with light smoke mainly confined to the edges.”


Dangerous Pier Currents

July 27th, 2014 at 9:56 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

advisory   The National Weather Service has issued a Beach Hazards Advisory from 6 am through the evening Monday.  Brisk north to northwest winds will create dangerous currents along the north side of piers and breakwaters.   Temperatures will only be in the 60s at the lake beaches, so few people will venture into the deeper water, but anyone planning to do that should stay away from swimming near or jumping off the north side of the breakwaters.  This is especially a concern at State Parks and beaches where the swimming area is on the north side of the breakwater (Holland State Park, Pentwater).  When there is a strong south or southwest wind, it’s the south side of the piers and breakwaters that can get these dangerous currents, like Grand Haven State Park.   The northwest wind pushes surface water against the breakwater and produces a current that flows out toward the middle of the lake.   Here’s a look at the latest Lake Michigan beach water temperatures, the Recreational Beach Forecast for the Lake Michigan Beaches and the latest Great Lakes water levels.   You can check conditions at the South Lake Michigan buoy (40 miles west of Holland) and the North Lake Michigan buoy…and…check out the water temperature at the mid-Lake Superior buoy!


Severe Weather is Over

July 27th, 2014 at 1:59 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

WW0446 Radar Hail 2 inch 7 27 14 Cooper Township by Renee Lyon   Hail pic. sent to WOOD-TV by Renee Lyon.  This was Cooper Township – Kalamazoo County.   Golfball-sized hail near Plainwell and on D Ave. in Kalamazoo.  Gust to 45-60 mph near Battle Creek along with pea-sized hail, 40 mph in Oshtemo.  Hail on Helmer Rd./Kalamazoo Co.   1″ hail near Big Rapids and Zeeland, pea-sized hail in Port Sheldon.   Golfball-sized hail in Stevensville (Berrien Co.), 1 1/4″ hail at S. Bend IN,  3/4″ hail in DeWitt, Albion,  Williamson and Lake George, 1/4″ hail in Waverly (Eaton Co.), north of Holland, Bath, Portland, Rives Jct.,  and Paris (Mecosta Co.)    Here’s GRR radar.

At 1 pm,  the wind was gusting to 45 mph from the east at Gaylord, with the wind pushing out of the back of a storm. Near Gaylord a tree fell on a car and a couple people were briefly trapped inside the car. There have been many hail reports from the Traverse City area to the east and northeast. 1″ diameter hail fell at Grayling and Mio. Gaylord had over an inch of rain in 75 minutes.  Here’s a list of severe weather reports from West MichiganNorthern Lower Michigan, E. Michigan, and N. Indiana (inc. Michigan counties that border Indiana).      Check out the links in the 2 threads below this one.


Great Lakes Water Levels and News

July 25th, 2014 at 12:48 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

Lake Superior sunset Jack Martin 7 18 14    Picture from Jack Martin of a Lake Superior sunset near Munising on 7/18.   Lake Michigan/Huron (one lake for lake level purposes – connected at the Mackinac Bridge) is 2″ higher than it was one month ago and an incredible 15″ higher than it was one year ago.  Each extra inch of water on Lake Michigan represents an additional 390 billion gallons, so 15″ would be an increase of 5.85 TRILLION gallons!  Lake Michigan/Huron is now just 4″ below the long-term average.   It’s now 27″ above the lowest July level of 1964 and 36″ below the highest July lake level in 1986.  Lake Superior is up 2″ in the last month and up 11″ year-to-year.   Superior is now 7″ above the long-term average and only 6″ below the highest ever July lake-level of 1950.  Lake Erie is down 1″ in the last month, unchanged in the last year and 4″ higher than the century average.   Lake Ontario is down 3″ in the last year, but 2″ higher than the long-term average.   Lake St. Clair is up 1″ in the last month, up 7″ in the last year and 4″ above the century average.   The outflow from Lake Superior down the St. Marys River into Lake Huron is expected to be above average through the rest of the summer.   The Grand River in Grand Rapids is running (as I write this) at about double average flow (3400 cfs vs 1620 cfs average).  The Muskegon River at Croton is at 1150 cfs compared to an average of 1210 cfs.   The Kalamazoo River at New Richmond is at 1630 cfs compared to an average of 1729 cfs.

News:  Fastest 12-month lake level rise on Lake Superior since 1916Sewage overflows in Chicago not the fault of “global warming“.  Update on Enbridge replacing pipeline.   More support anchors for Great Lakes oil pipelines.


Multiple Fatalities in VA tornado

July 24th, 2014 at 11:42 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

cherryhill  At least 2 fatalities and 36 injuries in a morning tornado in eastern Virginia.  Campers were overturned at the Cherrystone Campground and huge trees were toppled (some on the campers).  The storm hit around 8:40 am.   At least one semi was tipped over on a nearby road.  The driver was injured.  Large hail was also reported with the storm.  Picture from WAVY-TV.  More pictures here.   VIDEO of Softball sized hail and the tornado here.    Virginia Beach EMS says the City of Virginia Beach has responded to the Eastern Shore with six ambulances, a mass casualty truck.   The National Weather Service tweeted that it has a storm survey team headed to the Cherrystone Campground area to survey the damage.  1,328 people were listed as residents or visitors at Cherrystone Campground, according to a news release from Northampton County. 150 to 175 people lost their shelter, and were being transported from the campground to a local emergency shelter.  WAVY News reported from Lankford Highway in Northampton County that there was a stream of ambulances coming in and out of the campground area. The road is currently open *just* for emergency personnel.  Hail was still on the ground two hours after the storm and a couple billboard signs bent back from the wind.   The Coast Guard confirmed there are overturned boats in Oyster Bay.     Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital said the hospital has received 26 patients following the storm: 3 critical, 8 trauma, 8 pediatric.  More pictures here.   200 to 300 people have been taken to Northampton High School, where a temporary shelter has been set up.   The courthouse in Eastville closed down for the day so that workers could go to the scene to help.   The Northampton County Board of Supervisors issued a declaration of a local emergency following a reported tornado.  According to the declaration, the county is facing a condition of extreme peril, necessitating the proclamation.   Helicopter video.

Update:  The tornado has been rated EF1 and started as a waterspout on Chesapeake Bay.   From the National Weather Service Survey Team:   0833 AM TORNADO CHERRYSTONE 37.31N 76.00W 07/24/2014 NORTHAMPTON VA NWS STORM SURVEY *** 2 FATAL, 36 INJ *** EF-1 TORNADO MOVED OFF THE CHESAPEAKE BAY…THEN CROSSED NORTHERN PORTIONS OF CHERRYSTONE CAMPGROUND…THEN MOVED EASTWARD ACROSS RT. 13.


Air Quality Alert (Advisory) Monday PM and Tuesday

July 22nd, 2014 at 12:06 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

Ozone Action Day  The Michigan (and Indiana) Dept. of Environmental Quality has declared Monday to be an Air Quality Alert Day (you might remember these as “Ozone Action Days”…kind of like “global warming” has now been changed to “climate change” to cover more bases).  It’s likely that they will declare Tuesday an Air Quality Alert Day, too  The Advisory covers the lakeshore counties, Kent Co. and the Detroit area in Michigan and Lake, Porter and La Porte Counties in NW Indiana and the Chicago area.   This is for Ozone levels marginally reaching the “unhealthy level for sensitive groups”.  There was an Air Quality Alert Day issued for Sunday, but I did not see the readings reach “unhealthy levels”.  So, unless someone can correct me, it looks like they were at least one day early.   Here’s Ozone monitoring stations in Lower Michigan and Air Quality Index Values.  Here’s past Air Quality and Ozone Action Days (only two last year).   You can go to this website tomorrow and check the Ozone (AQI) levels and see if their forecast was correct.   Remember, there are FREE rides on the RAPID in the Grand Rapids Area and the MAX (Macatawa Area Express) in the Holland/Zeeland area (fixed routes only) on Clean Air Action Days.