Mother Nature is known for two things, her fury and her beauty. There are times when Mother Nature’s wrath can create natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. She can also bring beauty to the world such as rainbows, the Northern Lights, and the Rainbow Mountains of China. In 2019, her Polar Vortex that swept across the midwestern United States was both harsh and beautiful.
The people who experienced this polar vortex experienced low, life-threatened temperatures. If you ever saw the movie, Day After Tomorrow, you have seen what a polar vortex can do. The polar vortex in this film hit New York City and most of the Northern states. It was also so severe that people died immediately after stepping outside. The polar vortex in the movie and the one in the Midwestern states did have a few things in common. They both affected the water and certain structures in similar ways.
Lake Michigan was in the crosshairs of the 2019 polar vortex. Typically, Lake Michigan is a place for people to go and relax, watch the waves, and take a swim. When the polar vortex came through, the lake was completely transformed. The Straits of Mackinac froze entirely, and it was a sight to see.
Many residents in the path of the polar vortex took to social media to show the world exactly how cold it was out there. Residents were taking pots of hot water, and throwing it up in the air. Before it hit the ground, it had turned to snow. This was proof of how cold it really was at the time.
As if this weren’t enough, Lake Michigan’s appearance was even more impressive. The water completely froze, but not the freezing like you would see on a typical lake where families go ice skating. When the lake froze, it looked like it was covered with thousands of light blue pieces of ice.
How Does This Happen?
The way that this happens is pretty incredible. It started when the top layer of ice began to melt. This caused the water to be pushed toward the shores in gentle waves. As the ice piled on top of each other over and over again, it froze, creating a glass porcupine appearance. Not only is this phenomenon beautiful, but it is also a photographer’s dream.
Not The First Time
This wasn’t the first time the residents near Lake Michigan saw something this incredible. In 2018, the waterway that connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron had something amazing
Since ice is clear, you may be wondering why it appears blue during a polar vortex. It is because there are no air bubbles in the ice. It freezes so quickly that there is no time for air bubbles to form. When there are no bubbles, light cannot travel deep into the formation. This filters out wavelengths, leaving just the beautiful blue color. Those who photograph this phenomenon say that the best time to shoot to get the best color is at sunrise or sunset.
Just because the ocean is made up of ice, it doesn’t mean that it is safe to walk out on. Grant Heffner, a chief petty officer in the United States Coast Guard, warned people to stay off the ice during this time. The ice is not safe, and if you venture out onto the water, the ice could break up, resulting in a dangerous rescue mission to save your life. You might be able to get some pretty fantastic photos from the water, but if you step on an area where the water isn’t completely frozen, you will easily fall in. This would require members of the Coast Guard to come out and risk their lives to save you. This is why they advise the public to stay off the water, even if they are sure it is frozen.
2019 Polar Vortex
People are putting their lives on the line to experience this eerie phenomenon. Not only were people venturing outdoors to capture footage of the water, but they were also heading out to photograph structures that had completely frozen. A lighthouse on Lake Michigan’s South Haven pier froze over completely. It looked like a scene from Day After Tomorrow. The footage from the 2019 polar vortex is incredible. It is also a sign that climate change is going to be a real problem in the future. We don’t know what the 2019-2020 winter will look like across the United States; however, if last year gives us any clues, you should have your camera ready. You can capture some pretty amazing photos is another polar vortex comes through.