Solid Shoreline and Polar Vortex Events
How does this happen on The Great Lakes?
. . . And how do those twenty foot snow hills form off the shoreline? I especially always wondered how that happened and after many years of living in the area near Lake Michigan, I finally had the opportunity to watch the progression! If you look closely at the last two photos above, you can see icy waves splashing up off the ice shelf, sometimes reaching 40 feet in the air. Well, every time the waves land, there are a multitude of sandy ice chunks sprayed over the frozen ice sheet or shelf. Then, the constant flow and crashing waves eventually builds up the mounds into giant spectacles. Once the ice sheet spreads farther out, the process stops and the ice mounds stay suspended there until the next melt, which is often not until Spring warm up.
Icy Waves Slamming into Lake Michigan Ice Shelf
Waves Slamming Under The Ice Shelf
But what is the process whereby the fresh water reservoirs of The Great Lakes suddenly transforms from free flowing into a frozen suspensions in the first place?
First, the air temperature reaches below freezing followed by the surface of the water temperature. Next, ice chunks form and float on the surface. If the lake is calm, the ice chunks are slowly pushed towards the shore and eventually stick together. The end result is not a solid sheet, necessarily, but rather ice balls or ice chunks freezing together on the shoreline.
The next group of photos were taken before the big storm struck showing the progression when the ice sheet initially forms.
But do you think all ice on the Great Lakes is the same?
That’s not the case and now scientists have found a way to detect the differences. The development was reported recently in the International Association for Great Lakes Research using math. It's an important discovery for two major reasons.
1. To assist the Coast Guard in breaking up large ice formations
2. To help weather scientists predict evaporation that could lead to lake effect snow
Researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Aeronautics and Space Administration developed a radar system and an algorithm to detect types of ice formations on the Great Lakes.
The researchers use radar systems from either satellites or mounted locations to bounce a signal off the ice. The radar sends back a “signature", which can be interpreted using an equation to determine which type of ice lays on the water surface. This signature and resulting information from the equation allows scientists to see things such as density and depth of ice.
Though the algorithm can detect up to 20 different variations of ice formations, the researches boiled those down to five key types:
- Brash ice – Large, thick ice chunks that break off of other larger ice formations
- Pancake ice – Round pieces of ice a few inches thick where the edges often curl up as ice pieces merge together
- Consolidated pack ice – Large ice floes that have frozen together
- Stratified ice – Layered ice with differing thickness and density from top to bottom
- Lake ice – traditional, thin blue ice that forms atop lakes
The algorithm can also detect calm water.
Ice Breaking Ships on Lake Michigan
So how and when does the ice sheet spread?
When temperatures remain freezing enough days in a row, (and this happens often during winter in the Great Lakes Region, not just during the 2014 Polar Vortex event) the sheet will continue to grow and move out further past the shoreline, especially when the lake is calm. But when the 2014 polar vortex created temperatures in the single digits with wind chill factors as low as minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit, the ice pack held down the wave action regardless of the high winds. The sheet stretched to the horizon and in some locations as far as the eye could see! Observe in photos below!
DO NOT DO THIS . . .
- Meltdown at Pier Cove Beach; a photo essay
A history, tidbits, poetry and the wonders of mother nature's natural occurrences along this quaint Lake Michigan beach front known as Pier Cove beautifully photographed and presented!
I've written an article previous on Hubpages about the ice melt and feel the need here again to warn people about the dangers on the ice shelf. Every year someone creeps too close to the edge of the big ice hills and looses a life from snow and ice caving in. One year, I recall in particular, when a child fell in and both he and his father drown trying to save him. Hypothermia sets in quickly in the frigid waters and the body's muscles don't do what we want them to.
DON'T BE FOOLED thinking the large ice hills are solid. Under them are cracks and loose pockets especially when things start to melt. I can't stress this enough! The pockets grow from underneath with the waves pushing against them and you never know when the top is going to cave in. Besides, the surface gets slippery and slippery as the snow cover turns to ice. It's very easy to lose footing!
And the farther out a person decides the venture, the deeper the lake water, so that's one more reason it's wiser to stay closer to shore.
The people in the photos above were taking huge risks especially the guy who was so far out with no one around and also the guy on the far edge of the ice shelf in the other photo. The temperature was in the 40's one week after the storm and things were melting fast.
HERE'S WHY . . .
You may be wondering if I took risks in order to capture these photos? Well, slightly, I admit, but I was careful to not go past the first tier of ice shelf mounds where the water would've been over my head in case I did fall through. Plus, the closer to shore, the more solid the ice shelf. As you may have already noticed, there are three rows or tiers observable where the splashing ice balls did their thing.
How do the mounds build up in rows that way? It has to do with the wind and temperatures. The first tier was stabilized, then the falling temperatures and fresh snowfall allowed new tiers to form.
I CAPTURED THESE WILLING SIGHTSEERS ON THE FIRST TIER OF THE ICE SHELF and that was precarious enough for us all. We did not venture further out from this spot where the water is deeper and the shelf is shallower.
. . . And finally, when things warm up and the melt down begins, the snow and ice chunks separate once again as seen in the photos below from an earlier time. The first photo shows a big chunk of snowy ice that stubbornly hung onto some old breakers.
And then you can do this . . .
Which of the Great Lakes have you visited most often?
© 2014 Kathi