Environmental Articles

Articles containing information about Environmental Science.

The Big Chill: What causes dramatic changes in Lake Superior water temperatures?

The Big Chill: What causes dramatic changes in Lake Superior water temperatures?

After a hot, sweaty hike, there’s nothing more refreshing than a dip in the lake at Julian Bay Beach on Stockton Island. If Lake Superior stays calm enough long enough, the shallowest water, warmed by the sun, can be pleasantly refreshing. Wade out farther and you’ll find the significantly colder water just a few feet below the surface. However, if you throw in some wind and waves, the water temperature can and does drop dramatically. On a much larger scale, surface water temperatures in Lake Superior are always changing, as they are in Julian Bay. In late July surface water temperatures on...

Of Sun Dogs and Sunlit Winter Mornings in the Apostle Islands

Of Sun Dogs and Sunlit Winter Mornings in the Apostle Islands

Peppermint. On mornings this cold – minus 8 degrees Fahrenheit with a wind chill dipping even lower – each breath tingles against your teeth like peppermint. Each step in the new snow squeaks beneath my boots. In cold like this, it takes a strength of will to get out so early but there are rewards too, like what lies in the sky just ahead. For many of us, the Apostle Islands are a picture-perfect summer postcard kind of place – the “singing sands” beneath your feet in Julian Bay, the sky-blue waves on the horizons, the echo of water dripping like notes played on a harp deep in the sea caves....

Dance of the Birch Trees

Dance of the Birch Trees

A walk in the dancing forest this morning reminded me of another windstorm, this one in December of 1874 and made famous by John Muir. While others ran for shelter, Muir “lost no time in pushing out into the woods to enjoy” the storm. Picking a sturdy-looking tree, he climbed as high as he could into the swaying wind, clinging to the trunk as the tree itself “fairly flapped and swished in the passionate torrent, bending and swirling backward and forward, round and round, tracing indescribable combinations of vertical and horizontal curves, while I clung with muscles firm braced, like a...

Sea Smoke: Winter in the air, and on the lake

Sea Smoke: Winter in the air, and on the lake

One morning, usually in December, the lake wakes with Winter on its breath: sea smoke. Officially, the explanation is "surface fog resulting from masses of frigidly cold air directly over warm bodies of water." The sunrise temperature in the Apostle Islands today was a chilly and still 0 degrees. As cold as that air temperature is, the thick body of Lake Superior cools more slowly than the air, greedily holding on to the slow summer heat. Lake temperature today was 43 degrees F. And the lake wrapped the islands in ribbons of sea smoke. Whatever the official definition of “sea smoke” is, it...

The singing wilderness: A magical night in the islands alone on a sailboat

The singing wilderness: A magical night in the islands alone on a sailboat

On a clear September afternoon with a seven-knot breeze out of the southwest, I sailed our Cape Dory on a broad reach up the West Channel of the Apostle Islands.  I called my wife to say that I would be out of cell phone range for a few days, then rounded Red Cliff Point to a strange, greenish-yellow sky across the open lake to the north. If a storm was brewing, it looked nothing like I had ever seen. I anchored in Frog Bay and started preparing dinner.  As the sun set, the images turned into huge green ‘spikes’ of light, spurting and swirling up from the horizon many thousands of feet into...