Great Lakes Waterspout Season Is at Hand

Now is the time of year when waterspouts start putting in an appearance on the Great Lakes. I had largely forgotten about spouts until a few days ago when my friend and fellow weather weenie Mike Kovalchick mentioned them in an email. Bing! A light blinked on in my head: That's right! Waterspouts! I've never seen a waterspout. But then, until last year about this time with my buddy Kurt Hulst, I'd never made a point of going out after them. Kurt and I busted that day, but maybe this year I'll get lucky, provided I increase my chances by taking more opportunities to chase spouts. I have zero experience forecasting waterspouts. Thankfully, there's a snappy little graph called the Waterspout Nomogram that simplifies the process. Developed by Wade Szilagyi of the Meteorological Service of Canada, the Waterspout Nomogram provides a quick visual aid for determining when certain critical parameters are in place for four different classifications of waterspout: tornadic, upper low, land breeze, and winter. The tornadic variety is self-explanatory, and any storm chaser with some experience making his or her own forecasts should have a good feel for when that kind of waterspout is likely. Mike favors the 500 mb cold-core, closed low setup, which to my thinking may be a variant of the first in producing low-top supercells. The remaining two, land breeze and winter, seem to involve different dynamics. For all the waterspout categories, one of the constraints is that for spouts to occur, winds at 850 mbs have to be less than 40 knots, something I find particularly interesting in the case of supercell-based waterspouts. In any event, I'm hoping that this year is my year to finally witness a spout or two. Michigan chasers and weather weenies, it's time to pay attention to the marine forecasts. The "second season" can include action right along the lakeshore even when nothing's popping anywhere else. Make sure you bring your shotgun just in case a waterspout gets too close for comfort (written with a wink and a grin).

Sax on the Beach

Looking north along the Lake Michigan coast at sunset.

Looking north along the Lake Michigan coast at sunset.

Sax anywhere is great, but sax on the beach is fantastic. Take a Squeegee to your naughty mind. I'm talking about playing the saxophone, thank you, and about one of the places where I particularly enjoy playing it. There's something very special about heading out to the lakeshore and practicing my saxophone accompanied by the sound of the waves and the cry of the seagulls. If you follow the jazz side of this blog, then you know that I love to play my horn outdoors. My practice habits are fairly eccentric in that regard. Many years of apartment dwelling, which include neighbors whom I haven''t wished to disturb, have taught me that my woodshed is wherever I choose to make it. The state parks. The cow pasture at the edge of town. Most often my own car, parked by the railroad tracks out in the countryside. But there's no place quite like the shores of Lake Michigan. It's been a long time since I've taken my horn out there, but yesterday provided a reminder of what I've been missing. Regretfully, I didn't have my saxophone with me, but I did have my sweetheart and best friend, Lisa. From our little outing in Muskegon State Park, I thought I'd share a few images with you of... sailboats out on the waters... sailboats1 ...the north boardwalk along the Muskegon channel... muskegonboardwalk ...dune grass silhoutted by the setting sun... marramsilhouette As for the great sand dunes that are one of the hallmarks of this beautiful state, I've already given you a glimpse of them up at the top of the page, but the really imposing dunes lie in the northern and southern ends of the Lower Peninsula. Perhaps in another post I'll include some shots of Sleeping Bear, Warren Dunes, P. J. Hoffmaster Park, and Nordhouse dunes--vast tracts of sand, marram grass, and wooded dunes that reflect the wild beauty of the Michigan outdoors. It is a wide open sublimity that speaks to something deep inside me, and that has colored the music I play for many years. One of these days soon, I will visit the lakeshore again--this time with my saxophone, to serenade the gulls, the waves, the far-stretching sands, and the setting sun.