November Gales on Lake Michigan

December 15, 2020

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Photographer: Timothy Wenzel 
Summary Author: Timothy Wenzel 

Great Lakes gales are often referred to as the Witches of November. They’re caused by intense low pressure drawing very cold air down from Canada, over the relatively warm Great Lakes, creating almost hurricane-like conditions. A tragic example was the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald on November 10, 1975. Approximately 6,000 shipwrecks lie at the bottom of the Great Lakes, many from unfortunate encounters with forceful, late autumn gales.

The white caps in this photo on Lake Michigan were generated by a classic northwest gale that began building waves in the morning hours of November 1, 2020. By 3:00 p.m. significant wave heights (crest to trough) approached 13 feet (4 m). Winds gusts exceeded 45 mph or about 40 kts. Click here to see a 4x slow-motion video that nicely illustrates the sheer power of these waves.

Photo Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV; Software: Adobe Photoshop 22.0 (Macintosh); Exposure Time: 0.0008s (1/1250); Aperture: ƒ/13.0; ISO equivalent: 400; Focal Length: 400.0mm; Lens: EF400mm f/5.6L USM