Posted by: David Carlson | October 1, 2014

October 1, 2014 Message from CoCoRaHS

Happy New Year 2015 . . . Water New Year that is!

“Wait a moment, it’s not January 1st, is it? No it’s October 1st and a special day on the CoCoRaHS calendar. It is the first day of the 2015 Water Year!

“What is the water year you ask?

“The water year is an approximation for the best consecutive twelve months that span the “water storage/water usage” hydrologic cycle. The water year cycle is particularly obvious in the Rocky Mountains and western U.S. where snow begins to accumulate at high elevations in October and doesn’t melt and run off until next spring and summer. But this same important annual cycle takes different forms across the entire country.

“Another way to think of the Water Year is the resting/replenishing season followed by the water consuming season where vegetation grows, crops are cultivated and then harvested. For much of the country, the months of October through March are months where precipitation from the sky exceeds evaporation from the ground. This means that soil moisture and ground water can recharge. When next spring arrives, temperatures will warm again, plants will come back from dormancy and once again evapotranspiration will surge.”

I have not posted new information to this blog for a couple of years.   Lake Superior water level is about two feet higher than it was two years ago.  The water level has risen several inches in the past two weeks.  It is dangerously close to our boathouse.    Early this September, waves near shore were running 9 to 12 feet high.  Surfers were thrilled with the waves at some of the more protected beaches southwest of us. Just like Malibu, they said.

Waves were breaking about 100 yard from shore here. The storm surge ahead of the waves swelled five feet to the vegetation line, nearly to the top of our deck.  We had wooden stairs attached to the boathouse deck, about four feet down to a firepit in the volcanic bedrock. Waves ripped the stairs out of the firepit.  I found them the next morning, six hundred feet southwest, lifted eight feet above the vegetation line and hurled into some brush.

Boulders too heavy for me to lift piled up on the bedrock in front of our boathouse.  Water now covers the rock ledge where I sat dangling my feet in the water in August.  A huge tree trunk lies lodged against a rock pile about fifty feet east of our boathouse. I hope it washes out to sea in the next gale, and not through the boathouse doors.  My wife’s office and my art studio are inside the boathouse.  We have substantial stormdoors in front of the patio doors,  but that will not stop a fifteen-foot surf which is typical of October-November storms.

Posted by: David Carlson | June 25, 2011

Little Marais MN – Floods, Tornado, Gale – a cold June 2011

I really want to post some links to Marine Weather observations on Lake Superior. (See the end of this blog post).  I couldn’t find the Lake Superior buoy readings this spring. Then I noticed in red letters on the National Weather Service link, Maps had been changed to map.  I made a change, one lower case letter in the URL, and I got what I needed.

What happened this week  in my wide community on the North Shore of Lake Superior pales in comparison to events in Joplin, Oklahoma City, and Minot.

Our tornado happened Memorial Day Weekend.  You have to zoom in on a Google Map to find Brimson, MN, in the wilderness north of Two Harbors.  An F-zero strength tornado stayed on the ground for about three miles, and was about a quarter mile wide. One like it hit North Minneapolis in May, and that was a major disaster.  I don’t like to see our forest turned to toothpicks either.  Our tornado went aloft, and the funnel was seen by eSpotters for another eighteen miles.  It stayed on an eastward line aimed right for Little Marais.  I followed the cell on radar until it died over Lake Superior.

We got warnings via the Internet, but I wouldn’t have thought to turn on the Marine radio to get the details.  I use My-Cast radar images to get details.  There are no tornado sirens in the wilderness.

Until this week, I measured only 1/4 inch of precipitation for the month of June.  The day of the solstice, (Tuesday, June 21, 12:16 PM CDT), a gale developed on Lake Superior.  Gale force (30+ mph), and storm force (50+ mph) winds blew all over Minnesota.  Heavy rain fell on Wednesday and Thursday. I measure just over 3 1/4 inches. Lake effect happens in June too. Up the Little Marais Road (Lake County Rd 6) at elevations along the Superior Ridge, 400 to 600 feet above Lake Superior, 4-5 inch rainfall measurements were common. Runoff flooded Highway 61 ditches and one lane of the highway for a couple of hundred feet west of the intersection with County Road 6.

A MNDOT (Minnesota Department of Transportation) construction zone,   beginning near the entrance to Split Rock Lighthouse Historic Site, and for two miles west became nearly impassible. My wife was coming home at Noon from an annual women’s bike trip (Bayfield, WI this year) on Wednesday.  Mary, who was driving, was very upset after maneuvering around two miles of muddy potholes at 3 mph.  Vehicles hauling boat trailers, and larger semi-trailer rigs pulled over as soon as they found a wide enough shoulder beyond the construction zone, to fix the damage and adjust loads. Kim, another driver of the women’s group came through the same zone a few minutes later, and met an ambulance headed to a Duluth hospital, working its way through the mess.  Kim and several others called MNDOT to complain.

MNDOT’ posted advice to use Lake County Roads 3 and 4 as an alternate route.  County Road 3 starts just east of the Stewart River near the popular Betty’s Pies Restaurant.  That back way  adds about six miles to the drive to Silver Bay.  A left turn a couple of miles north of Beaver Bay takes you back to Highway 61.  It is a scenic drive in nice weather.  About ten miles of gravel road is not capable of sustaining heavy volumes of truck traffic.  Portions of that low lying gravel road are subject to flash flooding and washouts.  The Lake County Highway Department rushed in yesterday (Friday) to repair the damage.  A steady parade of  large haulers came came down the steep hill from gravel pits on Little Marais  Road to restore the  Highway 61 construction zone at Split Rock.  All that traffic diverted the back way while repairs were made.

I happened to be volunteering at the Silver Bay Public Library the hour of the solstice on Tuesday.  Eileen, the Assistant Librarian, got a call from her husband.  A maple tree blew down at their Lax Lake home, a popular summer destination about eight miles north of Silver Bay.  He called again a few minutes later to report a large spruce had fallen on Eileen’s parents’ driveway, also on Lax Lake, snapping a power line.  Electrical power was out over a large area.  We had power outages and power spikes squealing our backup power supplies for three more days.  The longest outage was only two hours on Tuesday night.

The Little Marais River gushed muddy water into Lake Superior. The good news, the lake level had been about a foot too low for my neighbor to put skids in the water from his boathouse.  Now it is possible to get out and go fishing.  The bad news, some seasonal residents pump filtered lake water for drinking; too muddy for filters to handle.  The mud takes only a day or so to settle to the bottom.

The surface temperature of Lake Superior is only about 38 degrees this June. It should be getting close to 50 degrees by the end of June.  I recorded an air temperature of  83 degrees yesterday afternoon.  Only four days this month has the temperature exceeded 70 degrees.  That is a cold June.

I put on my neon green Flippin t-shirt (from Flippin, Arkansas) to enjoy the warmth.  Another lake effect happened moments later.  The land breeze shifted to a lake breeze.  The temperature dropped to 60.  Actually, the temperature remained in the upper 60’s over night. Fireflies came out, my mythical midsummer fairies, only four days later than usual.  This morning the temperature dropped to 46 with the lake breeze by 10 AM.

Here are the promised links to Lake Superior Marine Weather observations.   The map.  Silver Bay Marina  Duluth UMD buoy  Devils Island, the Apostle Islands  Mid-lake buoy Western Lake Superior

Posted by: David Carlson | October 29, 2010

One of the Biggest Storms Ever Recorded in the U.S.

On October 25, 2010 I posted a blog entry in which I mentioned a major storm developing in Minnesota. I said it might rival the storm of November 9-10, 1975 that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald on the east end of Lake Superior.  In fact, this year’s storm lasted parts of three days.  It produced severe weather  that involved more than half of North America. 
The barometric pressure was one of the lowest ever recorded in the U.S.   For the record, adjustments had to be made;  28.21 inches was recorded at 5:13 pm at Bigfork in Itasca County, Minnesota.  At Little Marais on the North Shore of Lake Superior,  about 200 miles southeast of Big Fork, my low barometer reading was a couple of hours earlier, 28.35 inches.  I did not make adjustments. 
Several reports described the storm in terms of a hurricane.  At the time of these low barometer records, the wind was not that strong at Little Marais. It was like being near the eye of a hurricane.  That hour between 3 and 4 PM, the wind shifted from northeast gale force  to storm force southwest winds.   Large rolling waves from the northeast, wave heights 7-9 feet within 100 yards of shore, met steeper waves building from the southwest.  Northeast waves get an extra push from a prevailing northeast current along the north shore, which added to the chaotic choppiness.  Before the storm force winds reached shore, I could already see waves exceeding 12 feet high about two miles out.
Winds had been sustained at about 30 miles per hour with frequent gusts near 40 miles per hour.  By 5 PM, a large blue spruce tree had broken along the lakeside less than 100 feet from our boathouse/cabin, where my wife has her office.  The southwest winds were sustained at about 40 miles per hour with frequent gusts to 50 miles per hour until 2 AM.  I discovered two more fallen trees the next morning.
October 28, we were still experiencing gale force northwest winds until about 4 PM, after the storm center has passed far to the north.
Here’s a link to a report by the Minnesota State Climatology Office.  Within it is another link to a report by the National Weather Service Office in Duluth.  I also have been following stories posted on Facebook by Tom Skilling, WGN-TV Chicago.

MN Climatology Working Group Report


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