Friday, December 31, 2010

Ice shelves

A few days ago, the coldest temperature in the Lower 48 was recorded just 179 miles west of Chicago when Dubuque, Iowa, registered a minus-9 reading. Today's weather has been much different--as of this typing its 57 degrees. The above photo was taken this afternoon as rain fell along the Lake Michigan shore. There's still a nice ice crust several feet thick along the water.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Ice world

I'm way overdue in posting this. The historic storm that hit the Midwest about two weeks ago left its mark along the southern tier of the Great Lakes. I was driving to work, south on Lake Shore Drive the Monday after the storm. Traffic was slowing on both sides between North Avenue Beach and Oak Street Beach, and I wasn't sure why. Then I saw that two of the northbound lanes were closed, inundated with ice from Lake Michigan. Maybe once before have I seen spray from the lake hit the road, but clearly it had swept right onto the road. The chain link fence that separates LSD from the bike path and the breakwall was obliterated by the waves and ice. There were icicles on the top of the fence remnants that were pointing due west, at a crazy 90 degree angle.

Farther south along Lake Michigan, 30-foot waves struck the Indiana Dunes. Where it was once possible to stroll along a broad beach, there are now 12-foot high sand cliffs between the water and the upper beach. Also, the storm entombed Cleveland's West Pierhead Lighthouse in ice as massive waves struck along Lake Erie. It looks sorta like Superman's Arctic retreat. Incredible!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Legendary conference

I'm going to be honest: the Big Ten's new division names, Legends and Leaders, are lacking. So I have a proposal for the divisions of the 12-school conference and the names. The Driftless Area and the Glaciated Region. The Driftless Area would be comprised of schools whose home states touch unglaciated sections of the Midwest (not literally all touching the actual Driftless Area, but similar geological areas). So the Driftless Area would include Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Indiana and Ohio State qualify for their unglaciated southern sections. And the Glaciated Region would include Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State and Purdue. I'm throwing Northwestern in the Glaciated Region since Evanston is glaciated (though sections of Illinois are unglaciated).

My other thought was, and I'm not sure if Big Ten officials considered this, was the Yellow-headed Blackbird and Black-throated Blue Warbler divisions. The Yellow-headed Blackbird's range is concentrated over the western part of Big Ten territory, and the Black-throated Blue Warbler covers eastern areas. Alas, we'll settle for Legends and Leaders, even if these names when taken together evoke the title of a self-help book, or perhaps a motivational speakers convention.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Weather variety

We've made it something of a tradition to drive to Camelot Tree Farm near DeKalb for a Christmas tree every December. It's usually nice and snowy for our ride, and yesterday was (mostly) no exception. There was plenty of snow on the ground as we strapped on the sprout and took to the rolling terrain of DeKalb County. We hewed a 6-foot cannon fir as a strong wind blew and drizzle began to fall. By the time we left, a nice fog had rolled in, obscuring the views of the backroads of DeKalb.

We also typically do a little car birding in the vicinity. With limited visibility, it wasn't a great day for espying avian species, but we did record a few horned larks and a female lapland longspur on a dirt road. Another part of our tradition is stopping at Two Brothers Brewery, just north of I-88 in Warrenville. By this time, a snow-eating rain was steadily falling. We enjoyed the special Heavy-Handed IPA and a Long Haul Ale with our lunch--and took a growler for the road.

The continued rain made for a damp tree when we returned home, but it did pretty well overall and now graces our living room. And snow began falling again just in time for decorating last night.