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Lake Michigan’s Ice Formations: Part 4

Over the next few days we’ll be posting installments of an ongoing series here at the Backyard Geographer documenting winter ice formation on Lake Michigan.  For previous coverage, see parts 1 and 2 from 2009-2011, and part 3 from December of last year.

PART 4

The pictures in the series below were taken on January 11, 2013 after overnight rain. The air temperature was 50⁰F.  Daytime high temperatures have been above freezing for a week.

January 11, 2013, looking northwest along lakeshore, Wilmette, Illinois, Gillson Park

January 11, 2013, looking northwest along lakeshore, Wilmette, Illinois, Gillson Park

By January 11, lakeshore ice has nearly disappeared and Lake Michigan is calm.  It looks much like the scene on December 19 before the first ice of this season formed.

January 11, 2013, looking northwest along lakeshore, Wilmette, Illinois, Gillson Park

January 11, 2013, looking northwest along lakeshore, Wilmette, Illinois, Gillson Park

Only a few small remnants of white remain.  This one runs along the beach for about 30 feet and extends about 10 feet out into Lake Michigan.

January 11, 2013, looking northwest along lakeshore, Wilmette, Illinois, Gillson Park

January 11, 2013, looking northwest along lakeshore, Wilmette, Illinois, Gillson Park

Disguised ice persists in several places.  This slab is so imbedded with sand that it is only revealed by the undercutting action of waves.

January 11, 2013, looking northwest along lakeshore, Wilmette, Illinois, Gillson Park

January 11, 2013, looking northwest along lakeshore, Wilmette, Illinois, Gillson Park

Even as it gives way to warm weather, the shore ice forms fantastical shapes like these delicate stingray figures that seem poised to leap into the lake.

January 11, 2013, looking northwest along lakeshore, Wilmette, Illinois, Gillson Park

January 11, 2013, looking northwest along lakeshore, Wilmette, Illinois, Gillson Park

Eventually all the ice yields and crumples into the lake.

text and images by Steve Jansen

Lake Michigan’s Ice Formations: Part 3

The following post is the third installment of an ongoing series here at the Backyard Geographer documenting seasonal ice formations on Lake Michigan.  For parts 1 and 2, see this post from early last year.

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December 19, 2012, looking northwest along lakeshore, Wilmette, Illinois, Gillson Park

No shore ice this season by December 19.  Compare this to the hundreds of feet of shore ice on this date in 2010 (see photo in Part 2).

iceformations2

December 29, 2012, looking northwest along lakeshore, Wilmette, Illinois, Gillson Park

Chicago’s record-breaking, 290-day snow drought ended on December 20th but it wasn’t until December 25 that a lake effect event blanketed the lakefront in white. Note that there is still no ice on the lake.

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January 2, 2013, looking northwest along lakeshore, Gillson Park, Wilmette, Illinois

Following the warmest year on record in Chicago, the first shore ice of the season has just formed after an extended period of night temperatures below freezing.  Note that the same narrow band of exposed shore sand shows in this picture as well as in the one above.

iceformations4

January 2, 2013, looking northwest along lakeshore, Gillson Park, Wilmette, Illinois

This photograph shows the interface where lake ice is freezing to the shore.  The shore ice so far this season is only tens of feet wide compared with hundreds of feet wide in past seasons at this time.

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January 2, 2013, looking northeast toward Lake Michigan, Gillson Park, Wilmette, Illinois

Collections of ice volcanoes are forming in the narrow shelf of shore ice.

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January 2, 2013, looking northeast toward Lake Michigan, Gillson Park, Wilmette, Illinois

Details of one ice volcano and slushy floating ice that help form the ice shelf along the shore are visible.

text and images by Steve Jansen

Mild Winter and Lake Michigan’s Ice Formations

The following post is in two parts. The first part, originally published on the GSC’s website, documents ice formations on Lake Michigan from the winter of 2009-2010, one of the more robust winters in Chicago history.  The second part documents ice formations on the the same patch of lakefront this past January, during what has turned out to be one of the mildest winters on record.  The difference is pretty remarkable.  Click through to see for yourself…

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The Winter that Almost Wasn’t

This time last week it was 55° and sunny in Chicago and much of the Midwest.  Golf courses were still taking tee times, people were out jogging with shorts on, and local animals were fooled into thinking it was still autumn…

Leopard Frog -- Waukegan, IL -- January 6th

This Leopard Frog was spotted by GSC Board Members Steve Jansen and Judy Bock during a trip to the Waukegan Dunes on January 6th.  As they noted in an email the frog was “very much alive with a smaller fellow traveler” and its legs “comically slipped on the ice with each attempt to hop.”  The temperature outside was 48° F.

Waukegan Dunes

The immediate question an observation like this raises is: can such a mild and delayed winter be good for these frogs?  Don Wilson, a friend of the GSC who oversees the Great Lakes Amphibian Monitoring Program for Environment Canada, has this to say: “I wonder if these Leopard Frogs will survive the winter.  They should be hibernating, living off of fat reserves.”

However, small North American frogs such as the Leopard Frog and the Chorus Frog (the other frog, not pictured) are used to braving cold weather.  The Chorus Frog has been known to survive temperatures as low as 18° F.  So, while the appearance of frogs in January isn’t yet a major cause for concern, it’s certainly an example of very strange behavior in what has been likewise a very strange winter.

Additional Coverage: The Lake County News-Sun