Lake Michigan


Living along the West Michigan Lake Michigan shoreline I tend to watch the weather for changes. Something like a sailor, just with both feet firmly planted on the shoreline. When storms are in the forecast I keep an eye on radar throughout the day in the event something crops up. On Sunday evening July 26, 2020 that’s just what happened. Shelf clouds are fun to watch form on the horizon and they develop a menacing look as they approach and draw closer.  My experience has been most of the shelf clouds I have captured on Pere Marquette beach in Muskegon Michigan will develop and move in from either the North or the West.

Incoming Storm Shelf Cloud

A ridge of menacing clouds starts to form on the horizon and as it approaches the air temperature changes. The cloud morphs from a grey line on the horizon to a “monster” white on the top and dark on the bottom as it “rolls” in. A shelf cloud is a low-hanging, well-defined, wedge-shaped formation that occurs along the leading edge of the gust ushering in a thunderstorm. Updrafts feed warm, moist air into the thunderstorm to provide it with the energy it needs to survive. The day this shelf cloud formed the beach was packed as daytime temperatures were near 90 with high dew points.

Incoming Shelf Cloud

The downdraft consists of dense, rain-cooled air that sinks to the surface underneath a thunderstorm. The air from a downdraft pools up at the surface beneath the storm in what’s known as a cold pool and tilts the updraft letting the storm take shape and begin to move dramatically over the lake. As the outflow boundary or gust front begins to lead and pull the thunderstorm south it is ingesting warm, moist air and the results are dramatic. As the updraft’s warm, moist air rises up along the outflow boundary, it cools and condenses into a shelf cloud perfect for picture taking.

Passing overhead
Look at this boat trying to outrun the storm
Lake Michigan

Chronicling Lake Michigan Shoreline Erosion

With 22,300 square miles of water Lake Michigan is a natural fresh water wonder. The water levels have been rising over the past few years with May 2020 levels at record heights. Water levels have reached 51 inches above chart datum (average set point) of 577.50 above sea level. As of May 1st water level is 581.79 which is above May 2019, above average lake levels and 2 inches above the record May level set in 1986. That’s significant when you consider each inch of water on Lake Michigan is estimated to be 400 billion gallons of water! With record water levels comes erosion along the lake shore. Each erosion episode leaves intricate patterns in the sand as walls of sand erode and cave in. I have been chronicling the episodes with the following pictures the latest of what I see through the lens of my camera. Each area feels in my imagination like an ancient archaeological find coated in brown sugar. (Click on photos to enlarge)

Great Lakes

A Winter Wonderland

Michigan weather. Creates an ever changing always interesting wonderland. Photos taken January 19, 2020. 

(Click on images to enlarge)


Lakeshore shipwreck update

On December 1st I posted pictures I took of the lake shore wreck on the Lake Michigan shoreline. A number of people have requested followup pictures as the waves and high water levels continue to dismantle and rearrange the wreck, the debris and the shoreline. Slowly but surely the relic that sunk in the 1930’s (estimated having been built in the late 1800’s) is being swallowed up once again by the sand (it was lake shore erosion that exposed it back in November). So I put on my waders on Christmas Day and made my way south on the shoreline to the scene to record the wreck and its condition on December 25, 2019. Here are the photos I took that evening:



With changing water levels and shifting sands of erosion along the Lake Michigan shoreline we all continue to experience “rediscovery” as shoreline explorers.

I took these photos on the evening of Saturday November 30, 2019 wading into the water for a closer look.

My imagination pictures a 2-masted schooner from the 1880’s about 90′ in length and 20 some feet wide. A proud and stout wooden vessel of beams and iron. A flat-bottomed hull (visible in the water below) an ideal sailing vessel for visiting shallow harbors with a draft of only 5 to 7 feet. At 120 gross tons and economical to operate, shuttling lumber to Chicago from West Michigan she was subject to the November gales without the benefit of weather forecasting like we have today. But alas no such drama. The wreck is a scow (barge) being towed that sank south of Muskegon while transporting a steam crane in November of 1936. Time and erosion has uncovered the mishap and…..the rest is history.

I waded back into the water (Lake Michigan) on December 4 just before sunset. We now know (thanks to experts on the subject) the archaeological piece of maritime history “shipwreck” exposed by erosion  near my home is that of a flat-bottomed barge which some believe possibly sank in 1936 and may have been built in the late 1800’s. The waves are slamming it and the debris has moved along the shore since I last visited on November 30. I am hoping it is soon covered by sand again and preserved as opposed to being splintered apart by the force of the waves. (see photos at the bottom of the photo gallery.)

(You can click on the pictures in the gallery below to enlarge them.)