Surface Temperature Differences in the Great Lakes

By Derek Kaden

Have you ever heard someone say that the water along Illinois’ or Wisconsin’s beaches is colder compared to Michigan’s? How could that even be possible? I mean, the air temperature in Chicago and Benton Harbor in Michigan could be the exact same, but the lake temperatures in these two places could be completely different. Why?

The answer has everything to do with geography.

All water is propelled by the wind. In the Great Lakes region, the dominant winds – called the Prevailing Westerlies – generally move from the west to the east. They travel in this direction because the Earth rotates counterclockwise. Therefore, the Westerlies push lake water away from the western shore and toward the east.

One important characteristic of water is that the colder it gets in temperature, the heavier it gets as well. Warm water is lighter, less dense, which means its molecules are more spread out. Therefore warm water rises to the surface, while cold water sinks to the bottom. Fresh water is at its densest when it is at a cold 39.2°F. This means that the water at the bottom of the Great Lakes – or any lake that extends deeper than the pycnocline (1,000m) – is always going to be 39.2°F! Learn more about lakes, differences between fresh and salt water, and the ocean in this blog post.

When the wind pushes water away from Chicago’s shore, the water it pushed needs to be replaced. At the same time, the water being pushed toward Michigan’s shore needs somewhere to go. This movement of water is called upwelling and downwelling.

Chicago’s shore experiences upwelling, meaning the water being pushed away by the wind gets replaced by the dense cold water from the bottom of the lake. Downwelling is the reverse of this. In Michigan, the warm surface water gets shoved to the bottom, leaving no chance for the cold water at the bottom to rise.

Take a look at these pictures I drew which help to illustrate the point:



The fluctuation in temperature is greatest between late spring and early fall. In these months, the surface temperatures on Lake Michigan can vary by as much as 15 or 20 degrees between the western and eastern shores. The same goes for any of the other four lakes. During the winter, the lakes’ surface temperatures are pretty much as cold as at the bottom. It’s either frozen (32°F) or just covered in cold dense water. Take a look at these temperature maps produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).

The first one is from spring of 2014. Notice the warmer surface temperatures beginning in the middle of Indiana on Lake Michigan. They go on past Muskegon.


The same fluctuation can be seen in the summer. The biggest difference is on Wisconsin’s shoreline, between Milwaukee and Green Bay (light green), compared to shoreline north of Muskegon (brown and red). Both of these regions are at basically the same latitude, but the difference in water temperature is up to 15 degrees! This is upwelling and downwelling in full effect.



The trend continues into the fall.



And by winter, the fluctuation subsides and we’re left with a combination of cold dense water and…ice.


Romanians in Chicago Help Elect Their New President: Klaus Werner Iohannis

by Derek Kaden

Unlike Americans, Romanian citizens abroad can’t send in an absentee voting ballot through the mail. They need to vote in-person at a facility approved by Romania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the division of government that organizes diaspora voting. During the first and second rounds of the Romanian Presidential Election, which took place this past November 2nd and 16th respectively, Romanians in the U.S. voted at Consulates in major cities, the Embassy in D.C., and various schools and halls in all corners of the country.

Poland, Russia, Ukraine, and Moldova have similar requirements for its citizens who want to vote outside of the country. The rules are pretty straightforward. Voting can only happen on Election Day, and it must take place at an approved polling station. If you’re busy that day, or can’t commute to a polling station, you don’t get to vote. Under the mail-in system, people have a more generous timeframe to send in their ballots. In addition to the U.S., Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Thailand, and Britain allow mail-in voting. Mexico allows it as well, since 2005. In Britain, voting can even be done through proxy: one countryman can designate another to vote for him!

Roughly 3 million Romanian citizens live outside of Romania. That’s enough people to swing the election, which was decided by only 1 million votes. The diaspora leaned heavily toward Iohannis, who was viewed as progressive, anti-corruption, and someone who would nurture Romania’s relationship with Western Europe. Ponta, on the other hand, was seen by the diaspora as traditional, old-guard, and unable to inspire the sense of progress and transparency that Romanians crave.

Klaus Iohannis                                                                       Victor Ponta

Ponta actually had the most votes during the election’s first round on November 2. He got 40%, but needed at least 50% to win. Iohannis was the runner-up at 30%, and the remaining 30% was divided between twelve other candidates from a variety of political parties, including the Romanian Ecologist Party (.45%) and the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (3.47%). Since no candidate won the majority, the election went into a final round between the top two on November 16.

The map below shows results by locality during the first round. Iohannis, blue, was clearly favored by the diaspora, and also in his home region Transylvania in the northwest of the country. Sibiu, the city where he was born and served as mayor since 2000, is located more-or-less at the crosshairs on the frame of the map. Ponta was favored in the three other major regions of the country: Muntenia, south, which includes Bucharest; Moldavia, northeast; and Dobruja, southeast.

First Round Results
Below is another map showing the election’s second round results. Ponta maintained a sizeable support in Muntenia, Moldavia, and Dobruja, but more localities within those regions voted Iohannis. Bucharest went from supporting Iohannis in only one municipality to all six in the second round. In addition, almost every locale that supported a third party candidate in the first round voted Iohannis in the second.

Second Round Results

In Chicagoland, Romanians either voted at a school in Niles, IL or at the Romanian Consulate downtown. Chicagoland was the only metropolitan region in the U.S. where two polling stations were located. Madrid and Brussels had four polling stations, more than any other city. Italy had a total of fifty-one for the more than 800,000 Romanian citizens living there. Khartoum, Sudan; Abuja, Nigeria; and Colombo, Sri Lanka all had a Romanian Embassy where voting was possible. Surprisingly, there were even two polling stations in Kabul, Afghanistan where there’s a sizeable Romanian military presence. Yes, the diaspora is widespread.

In major Western European cities, as well as in Chicagoland, the government’s organization of polling stations was seen mostly as a disappointment. That being said, it must have been a logistics-headache to staff and manage every polling station: there were more than 200 outside of Romania. Many were quick to blame Prime Minister Ponta, aware of the diaspora’s dismal support for him, for purposefully making polling stations inefficient. In cities like London and Paris, thousands lost the chance to vote because time ran out while they were still waiting in line. Since voting could only take place on Election Day, there was nothing they could do. Others were discouraged from waiting in the first place.

RomaniansI witnessed voting at the station in Niles, IL. The parking lot, similar in size to a suburban grocery store’s, was jam-packed. Volunteers were directing traffic, telling drivers to go to a neighboring parking lot, because there was no room left. Some people, in all the madness, invented their own parking spots by going on the grass, for example. I saw tens of would-be voters turn back to their cars, deciding it wasn’t worth standing gridlocked in line. Those who waited looked understandably tired and impatient, yet they stood dedicatedly. Upon reaching the voting area, people presented their passports, a form, and then stamped the name of their desired candidate in front of a government official. Despite the crowd of hundreds, only four stamps were in use.

Iohannis was sworn into office on December 22, 2014. His job lasts five years, and in 2019 he will have the chance to serve a second and final term.