Lake Michigan, January

Lake Michigan, January

An old friend lives on Prospect Avenue, high on the bluffs overlooking Milwaukee’s lakefront.  I visited her today with another friend.  The day was gray, frigid and quite breezy.  But I pulled off my gloves and braved the wind—only for a minute—to take a picture of the lake.

Lake Michigan looks different every day, which might come as a surprise to people who have never lived near a large body of water.  I just noticed the barely-visible line of clouds low on the horizon.  Although it appears you’re seeing distant cliffs or mountains across the water, it’s really just the low-pressure weather system moving east.  You can’t see the Michigan shoreline from Milwaukee.  It’s too far away on the other side of the lake.

Can you make out the thin line of dark blue at the horizon in this photograph?  Some days that stripe is thicker, and closer to shore there’s a third segment of color, usually a brownish green.  There used to be a product called Jello 1•2•3, which “magically” segmented into three layers of jello and mousse.  Those three-layer days (dark blue on the horizon, sea green in the middle, and muddy beige in the foreground) remind me of Jello 1•2•3 🙂

Other days the water is a deep sapphire and covered with whitecaps, a sprinkling of small, cresting waves whipped up on the surface by a stiff breeze.  And when it’s raining and windy, there might be several long lines of waves rolling in, one after another.  Lake Michigan reminds me of the Atlantic Ocean on those days.

The strangest days are “steam devil” days.  These are days when the lake gives up its heat on the first really cold mornings of the winter.  It’s so eerie to see the curls of steam rising up from all across the water’s surface!  Below is a photo from the Wikipedia article on steam devils.  It originally appeared in an article on the phenomenon by two UW-Milwaukee geography professors in The Monthly Weather Review (Vol. 100, No. 3, March 1972, pp. 235-237).


About Katherine Wikoff

I am a college professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering, where I teach literature, film studies, political science, and communication. I also volunteer with a Milwaukee homeless sanctuary, Repairers of the Breach, as chair of the Communications and Fund Development Committee.
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1 Response to Lake Michigan, January

  1. Pingback: Lake Michigan, on a blustery end-of-May day | Katherine Wikoff

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